PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is ready to extend regular civilian policing to the tribal districts that recently merged and became part of the province.
Currently, the Khasadar and Levies forces are responsible for providing security and enforcing laws in the tribal districts.
"We have done 90% of the homework in forming teams to assess their respective areas before the police head into the erstwhile tribal areas," KP Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Khan Mehsud told Pakistan Forward.
Police are co-ordinating with the army and Frontier Corps to set up offices, police stations and outposts and to train the officers who will be stationed in the tribal belt, he said.
An improved wing of the KP Counter-Terrorism department will operate in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which battled terrorism for many years, Mehsud explained.
Ninety-five police stations, 130 posts and 13 police lines will be set up in the former tribal agencies, according to the police.
"We will raise a force of about 45,000 officers for policing in the tribal districts," said Mehsud, adding that authorities have asked the civilian administration of those districts to provide details on all the Khasadar Force and Levies Force members serving there, so that the qualified ones may become police officers after completing training and other formalities.
"The prime minister [Imran Khan] and federal authorities are committed to introducing regular policing in the merged districts," he continued.
KP Police will need more personnel, including senior officers, to introduce policing to the former FATA areas, he argued, adding that the personnel will need vehicles, weapons and other equipment.
Consulting tribal residents
Authorities will make every effort to ensure nobody in law enforcement in the area loses his or her job, noted Mehsud, in reference to some tribal residents who have demonstrated against the police reform over fears that current law enforcement personnel will lose their jobs.
"We will recruit 22,000 police officers from these areas," he said, referring to the planned tribal-belt police force of about 45,000.
Meanwhile, police officers have held a number of jirgas in the tribal areas with those who want the traditional jirga system to continue in their areas rather than have formal courts completely displace it.
Mehsud himself chaired two jirgas with elders of North and South Waziristan, while other police officers held jirgas with leaders of other tribes.
"We held a jirga with the elders of Bajaur [District] in mid-October," Arif Shahbaz Wazir, the district police officer of Lower Dir District, told Pakistan Forward.
Tribal areas are going to need an infusion of money to develop their key sectors after years of neglect and destruction by terrorist groups, say analysts.
Federal funding is necessary for the tribal districts to "come to par with the rest of the country," Afrasiab Khattak, a former senator and chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told Pakistan Forward.
Ensuring the rule of law
Demonstrations notwithstanding, tribe members are looking forward to the introduction of regular courts and of police that comes with the merger.
"We must have one system in the entire country," said Rahmanullah, a teacher in his mid-40's from Mohmand tribal district who goes by one name.
The colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) put FATA under the rule of political agents appointed by the KP governor, recalled Rahmanullah, adding that the tribe members lacked access to those political agents and could not appeal their rulings.
The FCR took effect in the late 19th century and was an unwelcome part of the daily lives of local tribes up until the merger of KP and FATA rendered it invalid in 2018.
"A proper police, as well as a court system, will ensure justice ... in the recently merged tribal districts," Rahmanullah said.
"The Dispute Resolution Councils operating in KP will be established in these areas according to the local traditions and culture, resembling the jirga system," Waqar Ahmad, a spokesman for KP Police, told Pakistan Forward. "Most of the issues [in the tribal areas] will be addressed through these bodies."
All regional police officers (RPOs) have orders to assess the requirements for introducing the police system in the tribal areas close to them, he said.
"The RPO Malakand, for example, has been made the focal person for Bajaur," Ahmad said. "The capital city police officer is the focal person for Khyber District."