Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) is the region spanning 27,200 square-kilometres, has a population of about four million, and is also spread over seven agencies and six frontier regions. FATA needs to have a comprehensive set of social, political, administrative, judicial and security reforms, along with rehabilitation of the IDPs and resettlement work in the war-affected areas, would eventually give the denizenry of the tribal areas a prosperous future. Almost two million people — one-third of its total population — had been displaced, most of them got resettled, due to the successful operation Zarb-e-Azb to hunt down the spectre of terrorism and also to devour sanctuaries of the militants.
In the Post 9/11 scenario, the situation of FATA was ridden by warfare, drone predators and poverty that deteriorated its infrastructure, social and economic opportunities. While the aboriginal people suffered desolation.
After the perpetual ignorance by the Pakistani militants towards dialogue, there remained no option at the disposal of the civil-military’s top brass, besides to carry out military operations to curb on the spate of militancy originated from the region of FATA to the parts of Pakistan. Undeniably, without restoring peace, stability and security no reforms could ever have been effective. Thus, peace, stability, security is the fulcrum priority of FATA reforms.
Keeping in view that FATA and KP are ascribed to congenital twins for long, FATA has been in solitude, disconnected from the mainstreams of socio-politico-economic benefits enjoyed by other provinces. FATA is also apparently being deprived of the advantages of CPEC projects. Allocation of 3% from the NFC award may likely be insufficient. It is argued that the construction of projects pertaining to modern transportation system will serve little purpose under the situation the marginalised region is currently in, deprived of basic infrastructure and the dole.
One cannot be ignorant of the fact that FATA now manifests the picture of dark and dreary of nascent Pakistan soon after its independence. The political leaders and civil bureaucracy obtained foreign trainings to ameliorate future prospects of the country. However, the FATA region has not yet benefited despite the thriving democracy and modernism. Because it is widely trapped in the grip of tribal leaders deemed as chieftains, elders, judges, jury and executioner. They hold Jirga to determine adjudicative affairs, despite being incognizant about justice system.
The situation of tribal women is also despicable. They have tolerated astringent experiences of patriarchal violence, colonial mindset of men, child marriage, denial of property, Valver (bride money), Swara (settling dispute by forcible exchange of women), killing in the name of honour, and acute confinement to the four walls. There is no respite offered by the legal, social and economic system of the country.
FATA reforms are overly debated and overly contemplated, but the absolute consensus has yet to be given a practical shape. The debate of FATA reforms first took place in the era of the previous political government which illustrated an inkling of better FATA’s situation. It was believed that reforms are as vital as the reforms in Balochistan, because the reforms of these two regions have ever been lurking in at the mercy of the perennial dynastic tribal leaders who have now established their roots firmly.
Previously, the Commission for FATA Security Reform has proposed that 500 levies personnel be trained in each of the seven agencies that comprise FATA, and 200 in each Frontier Region (FR), as well as new Frontier Corps (FC) wings for border security and to support the political administration in maintaining law and order. Moreover, it has recommended that a coordination cell should be set up in the FATA Secretariat to institutionalise the levies’ capacity building in FATA on a regular basis under the grip of retired military or police officers. Further, the Commission also urged that a representative form of governance be constituted in FATA by enlarging the local governance structure to the level of governor in the form of a governor’s advisory. Such an institutional set-up may help overcome the disconnect between the KP governor and the FATA Secretariat, and the people of FATA. The very objective behind the reforms is to enhance organisational efficiency and to develop a cost-effective institutional setup in order to gain greater value for public money in public service delivery at the grass-roots level in FATA.
Moreover, FATA has even remained under the auspices of federal government as happens now with Gilgit-Baltistan. In spite of the fact that most of the political parties have tried to gain political leverage in bringing reforms, yet to no avail. The basic reason behind their failure of establishing foothold is abysmal socio-economic health.
One must not lose sight of the fact that people of FATA are very amicable and hospitable. But unfortunately, they have passed through the extreme state of tyranny and psychological complexities owing to the decade-long war-like situations. Since, FATA adjoins with the Afghan frontier, the cross-border terrorism cost the domain very much. Neither do they have a benefit of avenues of employment opportunity to get a better pay, nor is their land fertile to foster industrialisation. This ultimately resulted in penury, deprivation, or destitution paved the ground for drug mafias and other societal vices.
Their failure to grow progressively is because of the lack of infrastructure development, political fracas, bereft of the sense of ownership right among the people, absence of integrated health sectors, educational institutes, vocational training centres and industrial zones.
Most notably, people of FATA have seen nothing but war and turmoil in the past 30 years. They now deserve peace, development and citizens’ rights which are being under long consideration in the form of FATA reforms. According to the recent report, the capstone of the proposals of FATA reforms is likely to be merged with KP. But on the other hand, the merger with KP is being resisted by the Hazara faction because of the demographic shift.
Similarly, the government is requested to ensure socio-economic, legal, political and judicial reforms at the earliest by addressing the reservation of all communities. Advice seeking from the incumbent tribal leaders would be conducive while bringing reforms to FATA. For this, inputs from the persecuted women must also not be ignored. The Internally Displaced People (IDPs) need to be rehabilitated chiefly without delay. Local body election should be held by the end of this year. Protraction of reforms till the next election, poverty and starvation amongst the displaced people may contribute to extremism and terrorism which we have combated by consuming wobbling budgetary allocation.
After all, the intricate condition of FATA would chiefly be addressed by passing the CPEC route through the western region. Adequate allocation of funds from the NFC award will be beneficial.
Lastly, the plight of tribal women from FATA requires robust mechanism to ensure gender equality. The government claims that the bill is drafted as regards with the aspiration of tribal people’s customs and traditions, but the problem is most of the people consulted by the state are men rather than women. This shows that women rights are being excluded systematically under the name of culture and tradition.