The FATA Reforms


Gull Muhammad Sherani

The federally administrated tribal areas are a semi-autonomous tribal region in northwestern Pakistan, bordering Pakistan’s provinces of KPK and Balochistan and Afghanistan’s province of Kunar, Negarhar, Paktia, Khust and Paktika to the west and the north. The territory is almost exclusively inhabited by the Pushtoon community. They were granted vote power in 1996 by which they could send representative to Mijlas-e-shora of Pakistan. The much-complicated reign is under FCR for years. To remove the act of FCR and to gain the political and social rights FATA reforms were strongly demanded for years.

The much-awaited FATA reforms eventually have been submitted to the Prime minister for approval. The fifty-one pages report includes the suggestion the committee received and final road map it provided for the future of FATA. Indeed, it was a large awaited demand which ultimately force the military establishment and the treasury. The committee was formed in November 2015 which comprised Mr. Sartaj Aziz chairman of the committee, Mr. Zafar Iqbal Jhagra (governor KPK), Abdul Qadir Baloch (minister for SAFRON), Mr. Zahid Hamid (minister for law and justice), Nasser Janjua (national security advisor) and Muhammad Shehzad Arbab secretary SEFRON. The report shows that the related chieftains, elder, concern tribal agencies and representatives of all political parties were consulted. The committee headed by advisor to the Prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz took eight months to compile the much-awaited reforms in FATA.

The first recommendation of the reforms is the process of the rehabilitation of the replaced people of FATA and reconstruction of the restive areas. The reforms suggest that the people must be resettled before the end of 2016 and the reconstruction work must be completed before the end of 2018. The report recommends compensation to rebuild their homes. Another remarkable feature of the report is ten-year development program, such as construction of dames, development of mineral field and improvement in health and education.

Legal reforms which can be called the major them of the package. According to the act, the jirga system will be retained and the council of elders appointed by the court will decide the criminal and civil cases under the patronage of Rewaj (Pashtoonwali). Although, one another option has been given in the reforms is that, FATA should be merge in KPK.

In this regard, four basic options have been put on the table for approval. Judicial reforms which reflects statuesque, to create FATA council on the pattern of Gilgit-Baltistan, to create a separate province of FATA and finally to, merge FATA in KPK, each agency becoming a separate district.

No doubt, it is a great achievement for both the incumbent government and the native people. Observing the report, many people have broken the ice and openly negate the reforms. As report shows that the people from every field of the life were consulted, but the residents claim that they had not been taken into confidence at any level. None of the committee’s member belongs to FATA. It is generally observed that most of the people are not ready to unite with KPK. In this way there are some plans and pitfalls in the FATA reforms which need absolutely great cares on the part of the government. The committee claims that they had consulted with people belong to different segments of population. Since the report does not identify the people the committee consulted. The Parliamentarians from KPK or from any other region, or organization such as lawyers, associations were apparently not consulted.

The committee proposes the integration of FATA with KPK. This act may bring about uproar in the region, because the people were not fully asked on the issue. Morever, the most important them which is included in the reforms is “RIWAJ ACT “. It is recommended that; the Jirga; system should be retained for both civil and criminal matters where the judge will appoint a council which would supervise the cases. The first point is that, which judge will appoint the council and for how much tenure. Whether the council will remain under the shadow of judge or tradition (Pashtoonwali). As it is a fact that most of the elders were targeted by terrorists or displaced because of ongoing operation “Zerb-Azab”. How can one expect that the council will go on the way of justice? As we recently heard this word when two men were acquitted of murder by a political agent because the jirga had held that the rewaj permitted homicide in the name of honor.

No doubt, sense of deprivation is pervasive among the people living in the region. To remove their uncertainty and to bring them into mainstream politics, some stern and positive steps must be taken. The native must be given chance to decide their future plan, whether they merge in KPK or shape separate province. There is a very simple solution, plebiscite can be conducted by which they may determine their future destiny. Furthermore, government intends to form ten years development program. This program should be given to the hands of local elected leaders rather than to the bureaucracy. In this way all and sundry will come under the shadow of the constitution. The already depressed people will consider themselves as the real owner of their resources. The local elections must be held as soon as possible in order to push the reign towards the political prosperity. Least but not last, education and health sector should be given priority at every level. Shortly the objectives cannot be achieved unless the people are taken into confidence.