WEB DESK: For too long treated as the stepchild of federation tribal areas have not been able to keep pace with other units of state. Not only did that a deficiency their residents deny equal citizenship, it also bred general discontent and sometimes the vacuum to be filled by anti-state elements.
These are the people “from across the border” the Quaid-e-Azam had welcomed, in 1948, when they approached him to join the Muslim state of Pakistan. Of course, they have their way of life and special culture, which they wanted to be respected, protected and preserved. But that never meant they should have been segregated from the national mainstream by keeping them politically unrepresented in the nation’s elected houses.
How strange then even the country’s third constitution, promulgated in 1973, did nothing to do away with the pre-Partition political isolation. Article 247 of constitution mandates that even when they have their representatives in parliament “No Act of Parliament shall apply to any Federally Administered Tribal Area unless the President so directs”. Simply put, the Fata is supposed to be out of the pale of democratic Pakistan.
And what a pity that even the 18th Constitutional Amendment, which otherwise changed nearly a one-third of the constitution in the name of harmonising the document with the needs of time, overlooked this profound limbo. That unhappy state of affairs serving the backdrop the Fata Reforms Committee report submitted to the prime minister is indeed a positive development – all the more for the reason that being adjacent to turmoil-ridden Afghanistan the tribal areas need to be secured against its negative fallout. So how to bring this ‘no man’s land’ into the mainstream Pakistan the 10-member committee headed by PM’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs has proposed some quite practical, if not revolutionary steps, to be taken in five years to ‘build, operationalize and transfer’ Fata for its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Of the steps proposed by the committee for transition and merge, six areas have been identified for concerted action. First and foremost, the committee wants the 115-year-old Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) to be repealed and replaced with what it calls ‘Tribal Areas Riwaj Act.’ The tribal Jirga system, for both civil and criminal cases, would be retained but its performance would be overseen by judges. The FCR’s notorious provisions especially related to collective/vicarious responsibility would be omitted and the new law would make each individual responsible for his own actions.
At the same time, jurisdiction of Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court would be extended to the Fata. Another area for reform is preparation of record of landholdings, replacing collective ownership of tribes, under which it cannot be used as collateral or sale for equity, with individual ownership. Rehabilitation and reconstruction of war-affected tribal areas is one more area the committee has looked into and proposed for an immediate attention. Unless that is done the disturbed areas would remain prone to influx of anti-state elements, and therefore they would require presence of security forces.
With India keeping the eastern border hot Pakistan cannot afford to permanently keep posted some one hundred seventy thousand troops permanently engaged in the tribal areas close to western border. These and related actions to be taken in a span of five years are expected to pave ground for KP-Fata merger. But as they say there are many a slip between the cup and the lip.
The first and foremost, there got be consensus among the people of Fata on the viability of recommendations made by the committee. You also need to abolish Article 247 by amending the Constitution which defines the present status of the tribal areas.
For the transition to be operational, the committee recommended an allocation of 3 percent, that’s about Rs 90 billion, in the National Finance Commission for Fata, in addition to present PSDP allocation of Rs 21 billion.
Should all this happen as recommended by the Sartaj Aziz-headed committee to reform Fata it would still take 10 years to bring tribal areas at par with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
But there is no option to tremendous tinkering with what life the tribesmen live and what they should have to be part of the mainstream Pakistan.
Source: Business Recorder