PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan on Friday said that the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was mulling over a plan under which it would ask the army to call back troops from those areas of the province where peace had been restored.
He accused the federal government of delaying the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with KP, saying the province was administratively and financially ready for the process.
Addressing a press conference, he said Chief Minister Pervez Khattak would contact the Peshawar corps commander to discuss the handing over of the authority from military to civil administration in KP where peace had returned.
When asked whether the KP government intended to ask the army to withdraw troops before completion of its tenure, Mr Khan said: “The chief minister will be in touch with the Peshawar corps commander to discuss withdrawal of forces from areas where peace has returned and police and civil administration can take over.”
The previous Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government had asked the federal government in 2007 to deploy the army in Malakand division, especially in Swat district, when Mullah Fazlullah-led Swat Taliban challenged the writ of the state in the valley. The army had launched a full-fledged operation against militants in 2009.
Presently the army is performing duty along with the civil administration across the province.
Mr Khan did not elaborate on the troops’ withdrawal plan and briefly mentioned that police performance was better and they could take over in areas where the situation had improved.
CM Khattak was not present on the occasion to explain the plan.
The KP government unveiled a plan for a phase-wise withdrawal of the army and the handover of authority to the civil administration in Malakand division back in 2013, but the plan has not yet been materialised.
Military check-posts are still in place in Malakand and other parts of the province.
Mr Khan said that geographically KP was in a position to welcome the merger of Fata with it. He said Fata should have its representatives in the KP Assembly.
“Delaying the merger till 2023 would be a waste,” he said, adding that it would badly affect the people of Fata and benefit those corrupt elements who were looting the resources of tribal areas due to legal and political loopholes in the existing system.
Terming the Fata civil secretariat a “den of corruption”, he said smugglers and corrupt bureaucrats were among its beneficiaries. He alleged that corrupt elements became political agents by using bribes and looted the resources of tribal areas.
“Only corrupt elements are the beneficiaries of the existing system in Fata, not its people,” he added.
The PTI chief alleged that Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai was opposing the Fata merger plan to protect the interests of Afghanistan. He said the PTI would fully support a protest rally being organised by a group of parliamentarians from Fata in Islamabad on Oct 9 to pressurise the government to announce the Fata-KP merger.
Mr Khan said that the delay in Fata reforms and its merger with KP would deprive the tribal people of their due rights and give an opportunity to the country’s enemies to use the area for creating instability.
He said the gains of military offensives in the tribal areas could be lost due to delay in the merger of Fata with KP.
Answering a question about the Election Reforms Bill, 2017, Mr Khan criticised ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and said this law would allow any looter, dacoit and disqualified person to head a political party.
He said it was wrong of Mr Sharif to attack the judiciary in his statements.
Mr Khan welcomed Maulana Sajjad from Nowshera who has joined the PTI after quitting the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). Speaking on the occasion, Maulana Sajjad said the PTI was the only party in the country which could bring about change.
Responding to a question of a reporter that had he left the JUI-F because he considered Maulana Fazlur Rehman a corrupt person, Maulana Sajjad said he had just choses a better party.