PESHAWAR: Two days after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly passed a bill that would bring 28,000 personnel of the Levies and Khasadar paramilitary forces previously operating in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) under the command of the provincial police, province-wide protests erupted led by the All FATA Khasadar Force Committee on Saturday, with campaigners demanding their full integration with police.
In January this year, the government announced that thousands of existing local paramilitary personnel recruited from among the tribes of former FATA would be merged with KP police, after a constitutional amendment last year merged the tribal areas with neighboring KP province and the Supreme Court abolished draconian colonial era laws under which entire tribes were held responsible for the crime committed by an individual.
But the government on Thursday took a unilateral decision against merging the two inadequately trained forces into KP police immediately, though the law gives them the allowance to fully merge with the provincial force at a later stage. According to the hotly protested bill, two special Khasadar and Levies forces would instead be working parallel to the police, in a move that representatives of the forces deem unacceptable.
“We plan to mobilize 28,000 plus Khasadar and Levies personnel for a decisive sit-in in Peshawar, and then at Bani Gala in front of the Prime Minister’s home,” Syed Jalal Wazir, chairman All FATA Khasadar and Levy Force Committee, told Arab News.
“We will ask the Prime Minister… if you have merged tribal areas with KP then merge us with the police, but if tribal areas’ merger is just an eyewash, then we will step back from our legitimate demand,” he said.
On Thursday, as KP Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ghani chaired the session, Khasadar and Levies personnel chanted slogans against the bill outside and demanded they be given the perks and privileges enjoyed by the police force in the rest of the country. The bill was tabled without allowing for debate, which caused pandemonium in the house.
But Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said the reservations of former FATA personnel were unfounded, and that they were toeing the opposition’s line.
“It is totally unfair that Khasadars and Levies personnel have opted for protests. I know the opposition is behind them, fueling protests to destabilize the provincial government,” he said.
But the opposition bench said the government must take opposition lawmakers into confidence before introducing bills of public importance.
Opposition member from the Awami National Party (ANP), Sardar Hussain Babak, said KP’s Chief Minister, Mahmood Khan, had promised the Khasadars and Levies personnel that they would be fully absorbed into provincial police, but the pledge had never materialized.
According to Wazir, over 2,000 Khasadars and Levies Force personnel attended Saturday’s protest camp in Bajaur tribal district to protest the bill. Arab News could not independently verify the figure.
He said the new law was unacceptable, and that the Police Act 2017, which made KP police more accountable to elected institutions at district and provincial levels, should be applied to the Khasadar Force.
“We can go to any extent to get our constitutionally mandated rights,” Wazir said. “Otherwise our generation will suffer.”