PESHAWAR -- Residents of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have welcomed a decision by the army to reduce the number of checkpoints in the region and to clear any remaining land mines, a move seen as directed at recent protests.
Corps Commander Peshawar Lt. Gen. Nazir Ahmed Butt told a group of journalists Tuesday (April 24) that security forces will reduce the number of checkpoints in FATA from 353 to 270 by the end of the year.
In Malakand Division, Butt said 70 checkpoints have already been reduced to 31, a number scheduled to shrink to 25 in June.
Sixty-four percent of the de-mining process in FATA has been completed, he added.
The KP apex committee has constituted a jirga to hold talks with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), which has been protesting alleged human rights abuses in tribal areas, Butt said.
"It's the duty of the army and government to protect the tribesmen, and work is continuing," he said according to BOL News.
"If the measures announced are implemented, they will have a long lasting impact on the people of FATA, KP and the rest of the country," said Safiullah Gul, Peshawar bureau chief of Dunya News and member of the Mehsud tribe.
"The construction of more schools, colleges, hospitals, roads and infrastructure will have a promising effect on life in FATA," he told Pakistan forward.
PTM protests will die down once the two sides sit together to accept and address the movement's demands, he said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party chief Imran Khan and a number of politicians had previously asked the army to decrease the number of checkpoints in FATA and KP and to clear the tribal area of land mines.
"It is a good initiative that the army wants to address the concerns of FATA residents," Musarrat Ahmadzeb, a member of the National Assembly from Swat, told Pakistan Forward.
The issues of the FATA population must be addressed, including improvements to education and to health, as well as economic development, she said.
"Brave tribes of FATA have achieved peace and stability after a lot of hardships and sacrifices," Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor tweeted April 20.
"Restoration of normal life after kinetic operation is part of 'clear-hold-build-transfer' strategy. State including security forces is committed to rehabilitate the affected population," he continued.
"We are through with challenges of 'clear' phase after kinetic operations, 'hold and build' in progress," he tweeted. "It's our home, by working together we shall gradually bring back complete normalcy. It's time to be aware of inimical forces trying to create uncertainty but shall never succeed."
Economic development of the area is a priority and the mainstreaming of FATA remains key to the region's empowerment and prosperity, Ghafoor said.
"The government should merge FATA with KP, provide more education and health facilities, reduce checkpoints, and make movement easy for the tribes who have suffered greatly for many years," Shahid Afridi, a trader from Khyber Agency, told Pakistan Forward.