Christian lawmaker brings representation, empowerment to tribal minorities

By Hanif Ullah


Wilson Wazir, the first-ever minority KP Assembly member from the tribal districts, addresses a programme organised by the Bajaur Minority Association in his honour in October. [Hanif Ullah]

KHAR, Bajaur District -- Minority representation is among the key developments brought to the tribal areas by the merger of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), as evidenced by the districts' first minority lawmaker in the KP Assembly.

Wilson Wazir, 45, a Christian from Landi Kotal, Khyber District, is the first minority politician from the tribal districts who has made it to the KP Assembly. He was elected in July.

"The KP government has approved Rs. 200 million ($1.2 million) in the Annual Development Programme for minorities of tribal districts, and we are thankful to Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for approving this amount," said Wazir, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member who won a seat set aside for minorities.

The KP government will allocate Rs. 50 million ($324,149) to establish religious centres like churches and gurdwaras and other community centres for minorities in the tribal areas, said Wazir in December.


A tribal elder welcomes Wilson Wazir to Bajaur on October 12. [Hanif Ullah]

"We will allocate funds as well for widows and orphans, as well as funds enabling students and youth to travel inside and outside the country for study tours," he added.

Wazir said he visited Bajaur District in October to hear about the problems of local minorities, adding that he "will suggest development schemes to the government".

"I have directed the administration of Bajaur to find land for a graveyard and a church as the Bajaur minority [mostly Christians] has neither," he said.

"In tribal districts, minorities are free to go to their temples and places of worship and have no problem from Muslims," said Wazir. "Residents of the merged districts have good relations with minorities, and no unpleasant incidents have happened yet."

"We are happy to have our own member of the provincial assembly, and this is the first-ever visit of a minority representative to Bajaur District in the 72 years of the history of Pakistan," said Jameel Bismil, secretary-general of the Bajaur Minority Association.

For the first time in Bajaur District, the district administration organised Khuli Kachehri (open courts) to listen to minorities' problems, he said.

"We are hopeful that our problems be will solved by this government as the provincial government has allocated funds for minorities in the Annual Development Programme," said Bismil.

Bajaur District has 272 minority persons -- 270 Christians and two Hindus, according to Bismil.

They include Asiya Chanan, the first-ever female minority teacher of Bajaur.

"I am happy to work with Muslim students, and they respect me," said Chanan, who teaches at the Governor Model School for Girls. "I am proud that I teach Islamic education as well."

"We are happy with the teaching of our teacher Chanan, and I have learned better from her," said Muskan, a third-grade student at the school.

Chanan said she is happy as a resident of the former FATA to have representation in the KP Assembly. Until this year's KP Assembly election, FATA residents had no representation there.

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Churches and Gurdwaras and other community centres for minorities must be build, but no Mandirs for worshipping Idols, which were destroyed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself