Lahore, March 18, 2023 (PPI-OT): On concluding a high-profile fact-finding mission to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has observed widespread frustration among residents of the newly merged districts, who continue to wait for the state to fulfil its pledge to integrate these areas with the rest of the province by securing its people’s civil, political, social and economic rights under the Constitution. The mission comprised HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani, vice-chair HRCP KP Akbar Khan, and HRCP members Jamila Gillani and Professor Ijaz Khan. The team spoke to a range of civil society members, journalists, lawyers, and district administration officials in Bannu, Peshawar, Khyber and Swat.
The mission is concerned over undue delays in the transfer of power to the civil administration and elected representatives in western KP, following the 25th constitutional amendment in 2018. The much vaunted merger was intended to make basic facilities and fundamental rights available to this region, including protection of life and property, education and healthcare, water and electricity, and access to justice, including through courts in the vicinity. While some progress has been made, it has simply been too slow.
Of particular concern to the mission is the resurgence of militancy in KP, compounded by reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The continued presence and control of security forces in the newly merged districts appear to have undermined the authority of the local government and civil administration. It is also a bone of contention for local residents who question how peace will be maintained if the region remains hyper-securitized. In this context, HRCP was alarmed by reports of continued restrictions on freedom of movement and speech, including widespread self-censorship.
HRCP welcomes the recent local government elections, but observes that the effectiveness of this system has been compromised by lack of funds released to elected representatives, many of whom have complained they lack even a workspace. Indeed, HRCP is alarmed by allegations from multiple sources that the funds that should have been transferred to the local authorities for the merger and subsequent development schemes have either been siphoned off as a result of corruption or diverted to other regions.
Nonetheless, the mission was particularly moved by the spirit of resistance that local residents in Swat have continued to display in the shape of ulasi pasoon [the people’s uprising], making it clear they are not willing to tolerate militancy any longer. The process of restoring law and order in the newly merged districts, albeit slow, is visible in the form of robust policies for police reforms and capacity building. Above all, HRCP was pleased to observe a robust political mobilisation among the youth of the newly merged districts, who have no qualms in exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by making legitimate demands of the state.
For more information, contact:
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
Aiwan-i-Jamhoor, 107-Tipu Block,
New Garden Town, Lahore-54600