PESHAWAR: The newly-merged, once semi-autonomous tribal areas of northwest Pakistan are to get an operational police force as soon as district police officers are deputed to their posts, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) ex-police chief, Inspector General Salahuddin Mehsud told Arab News on Friday evening.
On Saturday, Mehsud, a local from the once tribal region of South Waziristan who was serving his second term after being personally appointed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, was suddenly transferred from his post according to a government notification.
Last month, the provincial police announced that thousands of existing local paramilitary personnel, the Khasadars and Levies, would be merged with the new provincial police force as the province undergoes a structural transition from its prevailing tribal administrative set-up. This, after a constitutional amendment last year merged the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) with neighbouring 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.
In his interview with Arab News prior to his transfer, Mehsud said plans had been devised to recruit local people who understand local dynamics but did not elaborate on a timeline for when the police stations would be established.
But another senior KP police officer who requested anonymity said between one and two police stations would be made functional in every tribal district within the next month.
“Police stations will be established proportionally, keeping in view the population and geography of each tribal district,” he said.
For over a decade, Taliban and other militants used the FATA as a sanctuary for attacks inside Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan because the tribal areas had no government writ. But a series of Pakistani military operations preceding the constitutional merger flushed out insurgents from an area once infested by militancy.
As the region undertakes the mammoth and historic task of restructuring old mindsets and administrative departments, it remains unclear how much Mehsud’s transfer will affect the implementation of the KP police merger.
According to Rehmat Khan, retired additional inspector general of KP police, Mehsud’s transfer at this time has “stunned everyone.”
He added that Mehsud was doing a commendable job streamlining the police system in the newly merged tribal districts.
"Look, Mehsud is widely viewed as an efficient and honest police officer. His presence in KP at a time when the ill-equipped and ill-trained Khasadar force was being merged into KP police is of paramount importance. The entire process will receive a great setback and create a sense of alienation among tribal people," he said.
In an earlier interview with Arab News, Mehsud had said that over 20,000 personnel of Khasadar and levy force of FATA would be absorbed into KP police within the next six months.
Initial speculations about Mehsud’s sudden departure point to a conflict between the ex-police chief and KP government officers over issues with the Khasadar merger.