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New policy likely for tribal areas

world Updated: Jan 26, 2008 23:21 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times
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The truth is out — officially. When North West Frontier Province governor Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, resigned earlier this month, it was widely speculated that there were more than 'personal reasons' — as the government had then claimed — behind his departure. On Saturday, Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz, in a startling admission, confirmed that Aurakzai had been asked to go because "his policies had failed".

It signalled a clear shift in the government's position on fighting Islamic militants in the tribal areas.

Aurakzai was behind the efforts to bring a comprehensive development package to the area in an effort to back the government's military operation with economic relief for the people of the area. The tribal areas are one of the country's most backward areas with people mostly surviving on trade and smuggling.

However, Hamid Nawaz told journalists that Aurakzai was asked to quit because his policy of entering into peace agreements with tribal elders had failed, enabling militants to entrench themselves.

He noted that due to the ex-governor's" flawed policy", tribal militants had entered into settled areas of NWFP. This was in reference to the turmoil in the Swat Valley which is part of the "settled areas" of the NWFP, under the direct command of the government.

The tribal areas, by contrast, are ruled only indirectly by Islamabad through a political agent who consults with a collection of elders of the area, called a "jirga."

Hamid Nawaz also said that the operation in South Waziristan would continue until the area was purged of miscreants and that he believed militants in Darra Adamkhel "would be crushed."