By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, May 5: The government on Monday sought tribal elders’ help for its efforts to restore peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“The government and tribal elders have agreed to cooperate for maintaining peace in troubled areas,” federal Minister for Frontier Regions Najamuddin Khan, who attended a grand tribal jirga along with Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik, told Dawn.

He said the two sides had agreed to form a special committee to maintain law and order in the Kurram Agency.

The tribal leaders, he said, had assured the government that they would persuade the militants to end the blockade of the main road in the agency.

Some tribal leaders expressed reservations over the previous government’s claims that it had spent Rs7 billion on development projects in Fata during 2007-2008.

They told the adviser that contrary to the claims, there was no visible improvement in water supply, irrigation, education, health and forestation sectors.

The jirga opposed the enforcement of the FCR in its present shape and called for amending the laws immediately. It rejected Fata’s administrative system under which political agents simultaneously acted as police, judiciary and development authorities and the local people could not even file an appeal against their (political agents’) decisions.

The jirga comprised 200 people, including adviser to the tribal jirga Sahibzada Bhutan, Haji Rafique Mangal from Kurram Agency, Dr Farooq, chief of the PPP in Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency’s PPP president Farhad Shahab, party’s vice-president in Bajaur Agency Haji Mohammad Khan, general secretary of PPP Fata Mirza Mohammad Jehadi, PPP chief in Kurram Agency Dr Syed Riaz Hussain, joint secretary of PPP in Fata Changez Khan Mohmand and the party’s general secretary in North Waziristan, Shamur Rehman.

Rehman Malik announced that Saiful Islam Afridi, president of the People’s Student Federation in Fata, would work as his adviser on tribal affairs.

Mr Malik formed a special committee to suggest ways of solving tribal people’s problems.

During the meeting, the minister for states and frontier regions assured the tribal leaders that the FCR laws would be changed in accordance with the people’s wishes. “The laws will be brought in conformity with local customs and traditions.” He said that no substitute system contrary to Islamic laws would be considered for Fata. The jirga members also called for increasing development funds and extending the Political Party Act to Fata.

“We have come to power to change the system. Industrial zones will be set up in Fata … and development funds will be increased … Frontier Constabulary and Levies will be reorganised and restructured and the salary of personnel between scales 1 to 5 will be increased.”

In a separate meeting, Rehman Malik praised the role of civil armed forces in maintaining peace. The meeting decided to increase their capacity to enable them to ward off threats and overcome challenges. The advisor assured that his ministry would boost their operational capability.

DAWN

Karachi

Tuesday

May 06, 2008

Rabi-us-Sani 29, 1429

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