Federally Administrative Tribal Areas ( FATA) which is spread over 27200 square kilometer and has the population of about seven million. FATA consists of seven agencies South and north Waziristan, Khyber, Bajaur, Kuram, Orakzai and Mohmand agency and six frontier regions which is connected with Khyber Pakhtun Khawa. FATA has been ruled by the British-implemented law, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), from 1901. After the birth of Pakistan, the people of the area raised their voices against this brutal law. The twelfth point of National Action Plan (NAP) on reforms in FATA — has seemingly been forgotten. The administrative, political, social and economic needs of Pakhtuns living in the colonial construct of FATA have escaped the minds of those who created the plan.
According to the articles 1 and 2 of the constitution of 1973, Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) is a part of Pakistan. However, according to the articles 51, 59 and 247 it is coming under the direct executive of the President. Articles 8 to 28 of the 1973 constitution are deal with the fundamental rights of the citizen of the Pakistan. If any of this right is violated then the judiciary will protect it from violation. Although the whole FCR is contradict with the constitution of the 1973 but there are some clause which violates the fundamental rights of the tribal people such as the three basic rights (the right to appeal detention, the right to legal representation, and the right to present reasoned evidence) are not applicable to the residents of FATA . The KP and Baluchistan high courts call the FCR illegal. The law enacted from the 1901 of British era and still in the 21st century it is existed.
In the past, several committees were formed and many reforms were made in the FCR but these were not implemented in the practical sense. Recently, parliamentarians from FATA submitted the FATA Reforms Bill in the National Assembly and demanded the integration of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). In this regard, on November 8, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif formed a five-member committee for finalising reforms in the tribal areas. The committee will be headed by Sartaj Aziz, his adviser on foreign affairs. The other members of the committee are Minister for SAFRON Lt. General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch as secretary, K-P Governor Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi, National Security Adviser Lt. General (retd) Naseer Khan Janjua and the government’s top legal expert, MNA Zahid Hamid.
Within FATA, there are three different schools of thought who have their own views on the issue. The first school of thought, which includes representatives of the areas, is in favour of integration of the tribal areas with K-P. The second school of thought demands a separate province for the people of the area and the third school of thought wants an autonomous tribal council. However, the majority of the tribal people are in favour of merging FATA with K-P.
Unfortunately, all members of the committee are non-residents of the tribal areas and none of them is from FATA. It is very strange that no representation has been given to the actual people who have been raising their voices against the brutal FCR law. The committee tried to convene a meeting of tribal elders for some changes in the FCR, as it doesn’t want to abolish the draconian law. The other day the KP governor resigned, which also shows that the committee is unable to make any positive reforms.
The most important thing regarding the tribal people is that more than 40 percent population of the FATA, living in the different areas of the country as internally displaced people. Government should take some quick steps for the rehabilitation of those people and all the progress and development is dependent on the rehabilitation of the local people.
The population of the tribal areas is about seven million, but there is not a single university or medical college and the literacy rate is less than 20 per cent for males and three per cent for females. All other facilities such as health, electricity and roads are also lacking in terms of meeting the requirements of the populace. We need to bring a radical reform in Article 247 of the Constitution. Due to Article 247, and the British-era barbaric laws, as well as the recent military operations in the area, the majority of people in FATA live in tents in various parts of the country. The most interesting things regarding these areas are that if the government has conducted elections for the National Assembly here, then why cannot it conduct local government polls in the region? Having a local government is very important because the old system has totally collapsed and there is no other way for the people to get their rights. Perhaps, it is time to bring some positive reforms in FATA and finally pay attention to its residents, so that the tribal people can also enjoy constitutional freedoms like other Pakistanis.
The constant refrain on FATA reforms has become a pastime for politicians and there is a need to break this inertia of bringing reforms through committees that have no representation of the tribal people. We should to avoid no more experiences on FATA reforms and we have to take some bold steps. It’s a good opportunity for the government to bring FATA into the main stream so that the citizens of FATA will get equal rights as the others people of the country.
Writer: Rafiuddin Mehsud
The writer hails from South Waziristan Agency, FATA.
THE PASHTUN TIMES