Pakistan’s upper and lower houses of parliament have passed a historic bill giving the long suffering tribal areas equal rights and ending a destructive legacy left over from the era of British colonial rule. The British ruled Pakistan for 200 years leaving a class system based on discrimination that has largely been in place since Pakistan’s independence from India in 1947.
“Today the house has approved a historic bill, which will have very positive effect for Pakistan,” Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said regarding the bill. The new law largely affects Pakistan’s lawless Northwest region which is infamous for being a sanctuary for harboring militants that do battle against America in Afghanistan. The region has a large number of Pakistani army personnel staffed in the area to combat the militants, including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. For decades, the citizens of the Northwest region bare the brunt of the violence and displacement due to army operations.
“This is a historic day for us. We have been demanding our basic human and legal rights. And, today our dream finally came through,” Malik Sangeen Khan Mehsud said. Mehsud is from South Waziristan, a part of Northwest Pakistan a region seen as a trouble spot.
Laws in the colonial era denied basic legal rights to members of Pakistan’s tribal area, which included, the right to a fair trial and the use of collective punishment against tribes and family members of those accused of crimes. War in Northwest Pakistan exploded in 2004 with the Pakistani army attempting to drive out the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and similar groups three years after 9/11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan.
The Taliban and Al-Qaeda have long used the largely remote areas of Pakistan to cross into Afghanistan where they attack U.S and allied troops, causing a spike in casualties in 2010 and 2011 among allied forces. In the first days of the 2004 Pakistani army operation, 376 militants were claimed killed by the army. But with the latest numbers being available in May of 2017, 500,000 residents have been displaced due to the violence.
“With its capricious system of justice and lack of full political representation, the tribal areas had become an embarrassment of the country’s elected leadership,” Brooking’s institute fellow, Joshua Ward said regarding the issue.
Armed with nuclear weapons, Pakistan is seen as an important but controversial ally in the fight against terrorism. However, it is also seen by some as being complicit with Taliban affiliates and is accused of harboring Al Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden, killed on Pakistani soil by American troops in 2011.
The bill in the lower house passed 229 to 1. Pakistan’s Senate approved the bill a day later, and the Prime Minister said he supported the law.
Ultimately, the Pakistani government made the right move in granting tribal areas the same rights as other areas of the massive country. Pakistan, after all, is correctly seen as a vital partner in fighting terrorism and creating and maintaining stability in a critical part of the world.
Links to sources:
- New York Times Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/world/asia/pakistan-tribal-areas-rights.html
- New York Daily News: https://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/world/pakistan-senate-approves-bill-give-tribes-equal-rights-article-1.4009196
- VOA: https://www.voanews.com/a/in-nw-pakistan-army-offsensive-causes-massive-number-of-displaced-perons/1961989.html
- The Borgen Project, information for war in Paksitan: https://borgenproject.org/war-in-northwest-pakistan/