By Muhammad Jalaluddin Shamil
There are two categories of tribal areas in Pakistan, viz. Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Chitral along with many other areas fall in PATA.
Both these tribal areas and their way of governance are mentioned in Articles 246, 247 of the constitution of Pakistan. Governance in PATA is the same as the governance in any other settled area but that of FATA differs from the rest of the system in any region in Pakistan.
The ongoing operation Zarb e Azb, among many other things, will help in bringing FATA at par with the settled areas as far as the issue of governance is concerned, only if the developments are dealt with prudence, commitment and fair political will. FATA includes five frontier regions (FR Peshawar, Kohat, Bnnu, Lakki Marwat, D.I. Khan and Tank) and seven agencies (Bajaur, Orakzai, Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram, North and South Waziristan Agency).
FR is a name given to a region which is located in a border between a settled district and a tribal area. Unlike settled areas, no act of parliament is applicable to FATA, neither police force and other state apparatus exists there. In other words, the legislation of parliament, any law enacted by it will not apply to the people of FATA. They have a distinct method of administration regulated since the colonial rule through the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).
FATA is administered by civil bureaucrats and has no representation in the provincial assembly. However, it has representation in the National Assembly and Senate. As stated earlier, no act of parliament is applicable to FATA, its activities are controlled by the president of Pakistan. The president appoints the governor and civil servants to run the affairs of FATA. The political agent is the highest official in any agency and is answerable to the FATA Secretariat, whereas the assistant political agent (APA) oversees the affairs of FR and is accountable to the DCO.
Soon after independence, Quaid-e-Azam met the tribal people and assured them that the federation of Pakistan would not interfere in their tribal system, their jirga system for dispute resolution and all other traditions will remain intact as before. This assurance of the father of the nation proved to be one of the hurdles in the way of successive governments to implement the writ of the state in FATA. Consequently, the federation of Pakistan couldn’t interfere in the developments in FATA which resulted in the overall backwardness of the area and with the passage of time finding the writ of the state absent, terrorists, aliens and indigenous made it their safe haven.
The affairs of FATA from the very beginning were administered in compliance with the draconian regulation, the FCR. However, former President Asif Ali Zardari tried to amend FCR but this amendment was also not considered to be effective, as the new arrangement was not according to the aspirations of the tribal people. During 2013 elections, for the first time in Pakistan history political parties started their activities in FATAA. Before this, influence of political parties in the area was non-existent.
Governance of FATA has been of crucial concern to the federation of Pakistan from its very inception. Different considerations are there to streamline the governance in the area. One suggestion is that FATA should be made a separate province, second is that a separate governor be appointed to look after the affairs of FATA, and the third one is that it must be given the status like Gilgit-Baltistan, having tribal councils in different tiers. Whichever consideration is implemented the concern is that the writ of the government be implemented in the entire tribal belt.
FATA had remained the most neglected part of Pakistan. To my knowledge, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the only political leader who personally visited all the agencies, before and after him no head of state had ever visited these agencies. All these sets of affairs have resulted in the current set of affairs in FATA.
Now the decisive operation is on in NW agency. It is expected that after cleaning up of the area from terrorists, the federation may step in to materialize its long cherished object of streamlining governance in FATA. Now is more opportune moment than any time before to materialize the said object of the federation.
Tribal people are considered to be emotional and love liberty. The Pashto slogan ‘Akhpal Khwra khapal Akhtiar, na ma’nu Da bal Akhtiar’ (our own will in our own soil without the interference of others), seen wall-chalked in various places inside KPk best depict the mentality of the tribals more than the pashtoons of the settled areas. They are designed not to obey outside influence. This specification of them is perhaps one of the prominent reasons which had left FATA an administered area rather than a governed. However, now this ‘mental assembly’ of the tribal people have been shaken by the sour realities of time. They have already paid a lot for their rejection-oriented mentality and exclusivist attitudes. Lacking behind in many respects they are now a bit convinced to alter a bit of their long held conviction of remaining exclusive and independent in the cost of their development. The tribal people lack basic amenities; lack of education, economic opportunities, health care facilities and basic infra structure have helped in modifying their convictions. Now they are more conducive to change. Under these changed circumstances the federation will find it easy to implement its policy of streamlining governance there.
It is likely that the federation will start implementing its policy of streamlining the governance in FATA from North Waziristan Agency. The IDP would be facilitated back to their abodes within the following weeks. The army will remain there for some time and the contact with the natives may help in trust building between them and various state agencies. This nexus will help to some extent in bringing intimacy between the federation and the tribal people. Furthermore, the tribal naturally need the support of the federation in their rehabilitation. The rehabilitation process will help in developing even more intimacy and the people may readily accept reforms in their area. These reforms would be in administrative, governance and socio-economic spheres. The result of such reforms will significantly increase the living standard of the people of NW agency. This could be a precedent and could pave the way to implement the same reforms in other parts of fata. Gradually a time will come when the total area would be streamlined and the term fata will be changed either to PATA or be described as a settled region.
Therefore, it is perceived that governance reforms in FATA may take place following the on-going Zarb-e-Azb operation. However, this is a herculean task and will need a visionary leader. Let’s see the vision and prudence of the leadership while dealing with FATA in the coming months.