WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani authorities on Friday arrested 22 tribesmen in the troubled northwestern South Waziristan region in a “collective responsibility” punishment a day after eight government officials were kidnapped, officials said.
Pakistan’s tribal areas, which include South Waziristan, are governed by colonial-era legislation under which relatives, tribesmen and neighbors of suspects can be arrested and detained for years without trial for a crime committed by another.
Eight officials of the Fata Development Authority (FDA), the a government organization for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, were kidnapped in South Waziristan on Thursday.
“We have arrested 22 tribesmen to put pressure for the release of the eight FDA officials as the kidnapping took place in their area and it is their collective responsibility to help authorities in the recovery,” Masood Khan, a political officer, told Reuters on Friday.
No militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
The South Waziristan enclave on the Afghan border forms one-fifth of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and is governed under a system inherited from British colonialists.
Government-appointed political agents rule through the Pashtun tribes and collect and distribute revenue with little oversight. The people have limited rights.
While the Pakistani army backed the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and supported militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region, it found itself under attack in South Waziristan.
Decades of resentment felt by the population and the U.S. bombing campaign on the Afghan border following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States spawned a generation of Pakistani militants who used South Waziristan to launch assaults against the state and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.
In 2009, Pakistan’s army ordered the biggest offensive yet, pouring 40,000 troops into South Waziristan in a bid to tip the balance. But the offensive displaced almost half a million people as homes, schools and hospitals were turned into hideouts by militants and meager civic amenities were destroyed.
Writing by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Nick Macfie