Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to make Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) a model province amid pledges of an imminent massive development in the newly-merged tribal areas is facing daunting challenges because of recalcitrant bureaucracy.
Some elements in connivance of prime minister’s close aides have joined hands to erode PM’S vision for a developed tribal region— a volatile belt where challenges multiplied in the backdrop of its merger with KP.
Regrettably, hopes are fading up that erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) will get security or be brought into the mainstream anytime soon because of vested interests of certain institutions, individuals and mafias.
Unprecedented sacrifices have been rendered by security forces and civilians to restore peace in tribal areas—a region on the Pak-Afghan border that witnessed havoc for over a decade because of years of militancy followed by military operations to stamp out terror.
In May last year, President Mamnoon Hussain signed the 25th Constitutional Amendment Bill into law, merging former FATA with KP.
Felicitating tribal people, the president had said: “Now they (tribal people) also enjoy the same rights available to other citizens of the country.”
Since 1947 before merger, authorities had to run the affairs of tribal region through Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR)— a notorious set of laws introduced by the Britishers under which an entire tribe had to be incarcerated for the crime committed by an individual.
The tribal region comprises seven agencies or districts including South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Mohmand, Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai) and five frontier regions such as Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu, FR Lakki, FR Tank and FR Dera Ismail Khan.
According to 2017 Census, the population of FATA stands at five million. It is on the record that KP police had a reputation of a professional force during the term of then Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, former Inspector General (IG) Police Nasir Khan Durrani and former IG Salahuddin Khan.
The new IG KP Dr. Naeem Khan seems has either no homework to absorb the 28,000 plus Khasadar and Levy—an ill-trained security force— into KP police or has no experience to deal with tribal areas issues like his predecessor former IG police Salahuddin Khan who has now been posted as IG police of AJK.
The current IG Police AJK Salahuddin Khan himself belongs to tribal areas whose role to deal with challenges emanating in the wake of erstwhile FATA-KP merger was of paramount importance.
Unlike his predecessor IG Salahuddin Khan, the incumbent IG police is busy doing cosmetic work without any focus on stabilizing security of tribal region, which directly affect overall situation of the province.
Political interference through bureaucracy tends to negatively impact police morale at a time when police should share security responsibilities in tribal areas after the military purged most of the parts of militants.
Following appointment of Dr. Naeem Khan as IG, reportedly the prime minister office has expressed serious reservations over the change of two senior most officers including former Chief Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch and IG Salahuddin Khan of KP in a knee-jerk fashion overnight in a bid that deputy commissioners in erstwhile FATA continue their authority on Khasadar and Levy force.
This state of affairs led to growing insecurity in parts of southern KP districts such as D. I. Khan, Tank and the adjacent tribal areas, leaving far-reaching negative impact on police performance— a force in recent past regarded as a neutral and free of political interference.
According to Pakistan 2018 Crime & Safety Report, Pakistan’s 2017 Annual Security Report appears to demonstrate a significant reduction in violence in the KP region.
The number of terrorist incidents in KP was reached a ten-year low because of effective operations by the Pakistan army, police and other security agencies.
The recent transfers and postings within the police department in KP led to spike in violence in southern districts of the province and tribal areas, which contributed to increase in security related incidents in the province and the newly-merged areas.
For instance, police officer Muhammad Hussain has been posted as DPO Khyber— the main town on Pak-Afghan route known for smuggling. Additionally, Hussain has been given the charge of the elite force at the police headquarters, which is a post for 20-grade and above officer.
A seasoned police officer DIG Dar Ali Khattak and his DPO have been posted out from D. I. Khan, a sensitive district on different angles, where they restored excellent law and order.
However, these days, D. I. Khan is in grip of target killings almost every second day.
This past Wednesday, while dressed in police uniform, heavily armed men, riding on a SUV and a motorbike, unidentified people hauled away Eida Jan, a prominent youth activist of Tank district, from the limits of Cantt police station in D. I. Khan.
According to eyewitnesses, Jan was taken from near the Baloch Restaurant in D. I. Khan. Six kidnappers were in two vehicles while two were riding a bike all wearing police uniforms.
Last week, unidentified gunmen kidnapped Riaz Miani, additional commissioner Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) along with three of his relatives from Tank, the first district to South Waziristan. Miani was at his hometown to attend the funeral prayers of his mother.
In two separate brazen attacks, gunmen shot dead police sub inspector Imran and police constable Zafar in Bannu and Buner districts respectively. Both the policemen were performing security duty with polio vaccination teams.
This week, three Levies personnel were killed while another suffered grievous injuries in a blast at a check post in North Waziristan tribal district.
The attack on the check post came a day after one security official died and three others wounded in a planted bomb in the same district.
Last month, four policemen were killed and a station house officer was wounded in an ambush in Maharah, a locality close to Parowa police station, on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan.
These are some examples of growing insecurity, plaguing the region specifically the tribal districts.
The KP police chief should swing into action to properly absorb thousands of Khasadar and Levy force into police by creating posts in the police department.
After years of operations, security forces have brought considerable stability to tribal areas, leveling a ground for police to take over security responsibilities.
Power struggle and wrangling saw former IG Salahuddin Khan and Chief Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch transferred prematurely who were of the opinion that Khasadar and Levy force be absorbed into KP police with all powers rest with the top police chief.
Capt. (Retd) Feroz Shah has been posted out from Elite Force and now Dy. Comdt. Muhammad Hassain, the DPO of Khyber district, has additional charge.
For the sake of millions of tribal families who suffered deaths, destruction and displacement, the prime minister should himself take urgent notice of deteriorating state of affairs haunting the tribal areas where peace costs thousands of security forces and civilians’ lives.
Bureaucracy and the departments concerned should not play with fire by overstepping their authority to play 19th century game with FATA because stability of tribal areas is a matter of national security.
Former FATA can again plunge into mayhem if the wave of spiraling violence is not reversed. Khasadar and Levy force be merged into KP police without further delay because the local force would yield tangible results to arrest peace.