While the 31st Amendment to the constitution is being discussed mostly in relation to the merger between the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the merger has also made part of KP the lesser known Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA).
PATA, which has a population of 7.6 million according to the latest census compared to the 5.02 million population of FATA, is a more prosperous region than FATA and contains districts Chitral, Dir, Swat, Buner, Shangla, Kohistan, and Malakand.
The 31st Amendment has made provision for the inclusion of certain areas of PATA in the Malakand Division to be merged into KP.
The number of divisions in the KP province amount to a total of 26 districts, comprising 21 Settled Area Districts and five districts that fall under the PATA category.
The British established the strategically important Malakand into a tribal agency (including the princely states of Dir, Swat, Chitral and Bajaur) in 1895 to secure a route to Chitral, bordering Afghanistan.
However, in 1969, princely states were abolished and merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) as its districts.
It was then in the 1973 constitution that the Malakand tribal agency was converted into a PATA district with PATA regulations.
Much like FATA, provincial legislators elected from PATA are not allowed to legislate on matters relating to their own constituency, and the administration of the PATA districts is vested in the governor of KP, according to Article 247 of the constitution of Pakistan.
As sole the legislator in PATA, the KP governor takes the lead while the president of Pakistan has the power to advise the governor, and the signatures of both are required to enact laws in PATA. This leaves the provincial setup with other responsibilities such as maintaining law and order and the administration of PATA, and it also has internal security managed by the provincial police force of KP.
However, PATA has historically had more leeway than FATA has had and the law in PATA is different from the rest of the province only in name, as PATA regulations (Regulation I of PATA Criminal Law and Regulation II of PATA Civil Procedures) are practically the same as in the rest of KP.
‘PATA regulations’ have included features from both settled and tribal areas. These have included things such as tax exemption, the extension of the electoral system, the formation of regular courts, and representation in the KP Assembly, which was later extended to the local government system and continued with the jirga system.
The merger of PATA into KP will also mean that the people of PATA will lose their tax exemptions.
And while PATA has had it much better in both judicial and legislative matters, perhaps the most important distinction between the federally and provincially administered tribal areas was that the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) laws were also abolished in PATA.
The situation in PATA has been better to the extent that back in 2015, legislators from FATA had demanded that if the government was not willing to allow a merger between FATA and KP, then FATA should at least be allowed to merge into PATA to escape from FCR and other ‘draconian’ laws.–Pakistan Today