As Pakistani forces entered into Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to conduct military operations against militants, their post-operation measures to curtail the movement of potential terrorists brought enormous difficulties for ordinary people. Contrary to the claims of Director General, Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR), Watan cards served the purpose of ‘passes’ that allow people to travel in their hometowns and adjacent areas. The Watan cards had the same purpose as the passes issued to Palestinian people by Israeli authorities, i.e., restricting the unwanted movement of people by the state. Allowing movement on the basis of Watan card is in violation of article 15 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which guarantees freedom of movement to the citizens of the country; hence negating the fundamental rights of the people.

Responding to one of the demands of the participants of Islamabad sit-in after the cold-blooded murder of Naqeeb Mehsood in Karachi, the Chief of Army Staff has taken a timely step in allowing CNIC as a valid identification document for movement purposes in the tribal areas. The process of getting Watan card was in itself a discriminatory move against the tribal people. They felt further marginalised and alienated as they would be denied entry to their hometowns had they lacked Watan cards.

While DG ISPR claims that Watan cards were used for compensation purposes, however, he failed to admit that the cards were also used to curtail people’s movement. Not allowing people of FATA to go back to their homes if they did not possess Watan cards with themselves, though they would possess a valid CNIC, was wrong and highly discriminatory against the tribal people for which army should have apologised.

It is steps like these, which breed hatred in people against the state and its institutions. It is ironic that the government instead of thinking of exclusionary measures to mainstream the people of FATA, the state itself was relying on rules similar to those of apartheid South Africa while managing law and order situation in FATA. However, the move of Chief of Army Staff is appreciable. Mr. Qamar Bajwa also needs to look into other demands of the tribal people that they made during the sit-in, for instance, the issue of forceful disappearances of residents of the region. The government needs to consider the demands that the participants of the sit-in made. Not responding to meet the concerns of the people of FATA may spark friction between the state and the people.