- Tribal elders say jirga tried, but efforts yielded no results; question how they can recover abductees when govt could not do so despite having all resources
The all-powerful political administration of South Waziristan Agency (SWA) continues arresting members of the Suleman Khel tribe to ensure release of the abducted employees of the FATA Development Authority (FDA).
The war-weary tribesmen caught up in militancy and years-long military operations have now been brought under immense pressure by the political administration for the release of its abducted employees.
Sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today that about 80 members of the tribe had been arrested by the local administration and some of their vehicles impounded. “In order to further build pressure on the locals, issuing of CNICs and domiciles has been suspended and their business centres shut under the century-old black law known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR),” they added.
The sources further said that the movement of members of the tribe had also been restricted due to which the routine life in the area had been adversely impacted.
A few days ago, some six elders of the Suleman Khel tribe, arrested earlier on the charges of “collective responsibility” over the kidnapping of the FDA officials, were released to help find the abducted persons.
The administration, however, remains clueless of the whereabouts of the abductees despite the lapse of seven days and has once again resorted to pressure tactics to hide its own “inefficiency” and “incompetence”.
Nevertheless irate elders said that the tribal jirga had put in every effort to ensure safe release of the kidnapped officials, but it yielded no results. They also questioned as to how it was possible for them to recover the abductees, when the government could not even do so despite having all the resources.
Commenting on the issue, local journalist Zulfiqar Ali Wazir said that the arrest of the locals under the FCR was now an exercise in futility. “It will serve no purpose, because in the wake of talibanisation and subsequent military operations in the area, the local jirga system stands badly damaged.” “The jirga system and armed lashkars (militias) have lost their significance and effectiveness since the start of the war on terror,” he added.
Wazir further said that the political administration was arresting the locals just to make money and tease them, as heavy fines were being imposed on the tribal people under the FCR for their release.
“The use of the FCR at this point in time will add to miseries of the local people who have already suffered immense losses in the ongoing war against terrorism,” opined Wazir.
At least eight employees of the FDA were kidnapped in South Waziristan Agency on March 10 from Toi Khulla area – one of the four tehsils of the Wana subdivision of South Waziristan – when they were on their way to inspect the Chutangi Dam, a small under-construction reservoir in Zermilan area of Toi Khulla.
A less known Taliban faction, Asad Group, had claimed the responsibility for the kidnapping.
Three of the kidnapped men were employees of the FDA while the others were locals working for the Authority on the development project. They were identified as Akiq Bangash, Saifur Rehman, Ghafur, Shahid, Nisar, Ashiq and Wasim. The names of two drivers among those kidnapped could not be ascertained.
Toi Khulla tehsil of Wana shares borders with Balochistan as well as Afghanistan. The region is mostly inhabited by the Suleman Khel and Dottani tribes. The area remained out of the 2007 peace agreement signed between the government and Ahmadzai tribe.