Stories about FATA

Why fighting Mullah Radio is not easy

It was on May 7, 2006 that our team started the transmission of Radio Khyber, located within Khyber Agency, one among the seven districts of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in the north-western part of the country. I started transmitting with a passion to empower local people and give them a voice- a voice which had been kept silent since 1901, the day the colonial empire of India promulgated the Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) in Fata. The FCR was designed by the British, who used the region’s own tribal traditions and social psyche to rule ruthlessly over the territory. All the ...

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Feeling regret in the markets of Parachinar

I cautiously embarked upon my journey through the tribal area in FATA, this was my first visit to the Kurram Agency. I stayed in Parachinar for six days, an area that had succumbed to sectarian violence, and was now trying to recuperate. Although the community has inflicted much of this violence upon itself, I was impressed by what they had learnt from their trials and how they were shaping their lives now. Having heard so much about the violence that prevailed in Parachinar, I assumed a guarded pose upon reaching the disputed area. To my surprise, the Kohat-Parachinar road, once ...

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Mukarram Khan, Saleem Shahzad…who’s next?

In 2001, just after the US invasion in Afghanistan, a tribal journalist from Mohmand Agency was captured near Kandahar along with another Pakistani and a French journalist. All three were taken into captivity by the Afghan Taliban on suspicion of being American spies. As their case went before the Taliban court, the tribal journalist found himself with an unexpected advantage; he was the only one who could understand both English, Urdu and Pushto. Thus, he entered into the unlikeliest contract of all; working as a paid translator for the Taliban while in captivity. At the end of the three months ...

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Not just one horror story from FATA

When I read the article “Waiting to receive pieces of daughter’s body” published in The News yesterday, I was reminded of the horrific ordeal my family and I endured four years ago. Whether Shamsul Anwar’s story is true or not, the fact is that such incidents do take place, and the suffering is very real. In 2008, three days after my uncle took charge as the principal of Elementary College Jamrud, he informed my father about a warning letter sent by a local Taliban official. The letter warned my uncle that they would kill him unless he left Jamrud immediately. ...

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Chronicles from FATA: Your story or your life?

Two powerful stakeholders of Fata, the armed forces and the militants, are not happy with the work of tribal journalists. They are constantly warring with each other and each wants the media on its side. In the end, a journalist can report either a factual account and get killed, or craft a vague story and save his skin.   In situations like these, tribal journalists undergo immense pressure. They fear the potential wrath of one party but win support from the other. Usually, their writings miss the main ‘who’ and ‘why’ without which a story cannot be complete, accurate or fair. It is ...

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A journalist in Peshawar: My encounter with a militant

Six armed men surrounded my vehicle and asked me to get out of my car. Two of them seemed like people from the locality. The rest were shorter, had sharper features and Mongolian faces and spoke a language I couldn’t decipher. One of them, who spoke Pashto in a coarse voice, roughly ordered me to get out of the car Shaken, I replied: “Walay? Sa chal shaway de? Za sahafi yema.” (Why? What happened? I am a journalist.) He looked at me and asked: “Aren’t you an American?” I don’t know why he assumed so – I am as Pakistani as it gets. My guess is ...

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Reforms in FATA will not help

The Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) was legalized by the British government in 1901, to control tribal territory through a political agent. However, the recently introduced amendments in the infamous FCR are cosmetic ones, and will not bring any visible change to the life of tribal people. The amendments state the follows: 1- No one can be indefinitely detained, and people will have the right to appeal in the FCR tribunal which will have equal power as the High Court. 2- Cases will be decided in a fixed time frame and those arrested can be released on bail. 3- Women and children below the ...

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Battling polio: If only our children were vaccinated

Three-year-old Ahmad asked his mother, Razia why his foot looked different from his 5-year-old brother Sadiq. His mother said: “God made you this way.” Ahmad, my maid’s cousin’s son probably wondered who God was and if he could ask Him to change his foot so that he could at least walk on his own, if not play with Sadiq. Later, Razia asked her husband to try and get help from the shehar wala doctors. Their family saved for two months to come to Peshawar from the small district of Torghar, where they met with a local doctor. Ahmad was diagnosed with a ...

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Parachinar: Heaven turned to hell

On a beautiful overcast evening, while I was travelling from Islamabad to the historic city of Taxila I began to reminisce about my childhood in Parachinar in the 1990s – a place where fairies came down from heaven , a valley of tall, lush trees filled with sweet smelling flowers and delicious fruit. Children sang songs of liberty without knowing that this vale of roses would be stained with the blood of their neighbours and we would be receiving mutilated bodies of our beloveds.  Who knew that the ferocious Taliban would attack us from all sides just because we wouldn’t agree with ...

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Ready to die for a life of freedom

Since my last post about the fight of the Salarzai tribe against militancy and the death of their tribe chiefs, a lot has happened which needs to be conveyed to everyone. We have been tightly enclosed in a cube that is inaccessible to the outer world and I guess this is why we too have been kept in the dark – far from education and modernity. If you have ever been to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), you must have read the signboards prohibiting foreigners etcetera from entering there. The spectrum of the word ‘foreigner’ has now very cleverly been ...

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