I am from FATA and, today, I don’t feel Pakistani at all

Published: June 24, 2014
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Civilians, fleeing from a military operation in North Waziristan tribal agency, arrive with their livestock in Bannu district on June 20, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

I was shocked when I heard that the governments of Punjab and Sindh have barred Waziristan’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from entering their provinces.

Belonging to the tribal areas, I know how much our forefathers have sacrificed for this country. It was our people who took part in Pakistan’s first war against India in 1948, to save Kashmir – and this was when Pakistan’s own army general had refused to fight. Today, whatever part of Kashmir comes under Pakistani territory, it’s all thanks to the efforts of my people.

When the USSR attacked Afghanistan and Pakistan decided to be part of the United States-led coalition war, it was again the tribal military that stood firm in the face of adversity and made sure that if the USSR ever planned to attack Pakistan’s borders, it was there to protect the country. The USSR had to face the tribal people first, before entering Pakistan. Such was the passion our people had.

Even Muhammad Ali Jinnah acknowledged our strength and perseverance. He withdrew Pakistani forces from the western borders as he knew that the tribal people were more than capable of safeguarding the country. He trusted our merit.

Even recently, when Pakistan decided to be part of US’s so called war on terror, the tribal leaders supported the country completely, even though many people were not happy with this coalition. Pakistan lost so much during this war, yet the tribal people stood by the country.

A few days back, the Pakistani Army launched an operation in North Waziristan, code named Zarb-e-Azb, as a result of which thousands of tribal civilians were displaced and had to relocate to safer areas. Here, it is important that we acknowledge the efforts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government, who worked vigorously with other government institutions to accommodate the IDPs wherever they could. However, not all provincial governments have been so kind with the displaced people.

Punjab and Sindh, two of Pakistan’s most developed and progressive provinces, announced that they will not allow these IDPs to enter their boundaries. According to Article 247, FATA comes under the federal government and the governor of K-P is the chief executive officer of the tribal area. This would mean that the people of Fata are the government’s responsibility, and as such, all avenues should be kept open for them in their times of need.

However, this has not always been the case. Time and again, the people of Fata have been discriminated against and their human rights have been trampled upon. The verdict by the Sindh and Punjab governments is a testimony of that.

Even the Afghan government has welcomed these tribal IDPs. Afghanistan, a country that doesn’t even own the people of Fata, and is already in so much turmoil, has taken these IDPs under their wings; but two major, prospering and economically strong provinces of Pakistan have refused to take them. It is beyond me how these provincial governments can be so indifferent to the plight of the IDPs. Are these displaced individuals not part of Pakistan? Would they have done the same had these people belonged to Balochistan or K-P?

What will these IDPs think when they hear about this? That their own people have disowned them? Will this ban strengthen the federation or damage it even more? Especially at a time when it is imperative for Pakistanis to stand united.

In a federation, all units have equal rights, and every citizen of the federation can be settled in any of its areas. But alas, the IDPs of Fata are not so fortunate. They have been left alone to suffer the consequences of a problem that belongs to the entire nation – and a major chunk of their country is not willing to help them.

Right now, I have trouble understanding if the people of Fata belong to Afghanistan or to Pakistan, for surely, the former has shown them more care and hospitality than the latter ever will.

Mureeb Mohmand

Mureeb Mohmand

An Express Tribune reporter from FATA. He tweets @mureebmohmand (twitter.com/mureebmohmand)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.