Federally Administered Tribal Areas have been under the black law of the Frontier Crime Regulations since 1901 devised by British rulers for this region of the Indo-Pak. Unfortunately, after independence in 1947, unlike the rest of the country, the tribal region was kept under this cruel and unjust law by the Pakistani establishment. Under FCR, more than a million residents of FATA the residents of the region are deprived of their basic human as well as civic and constitutional rights enshrined in the Pakistan Constitution of 1973.
Geographically, the 750 km long tribal belt, stretches alongside Afghan border. as Afghanistan has been the victim of both cold and hot wars of international significance since 1980s, and the whole of FATA was also badly affected due to militancy from the era of Russian invasion up to the ongoing so called war on terror.
However, in during the Pakistan Peoples Party government at the federal level (2008-2013) the then president Asif Ali Zardari extended the Political Parties Act to FATA, which for the first time in Pakistani history, allowed political parties to campaign and contest elections in FATA. Now the incumbent federal government of Pakistan Muslim League (N) has shown interest to merge FATA with KP and has constituted a committee headed by Mr. Sartaj Aziz. After comprehensive discussion and consultation with all stakeholders, the committee has recommended the merger of FATA with KP but still there is a conflict due to which the decision of merger is being delayed. Stakeholders involved in the decision making process are general public, political parties, local maliks (tribal chieftains), and political administration. Each party involved has its own positions and interests related to mainstreaming FATA.
Majority of the general public, civil society and mainstream political parties (PTI, JI, PMLN, ANP, PPP) want FATA’s merger with KP. The interest of general public is that they desire their civil, constitutional, political and basic human rights and mainstreaming in the national discourse. While the aforesaid political parties support merger due to their political interests because mainstreaming will help increase their vote bank. There are but tow exceptions to the rule, namely, Jamiat Ulame Islam(f) and Puktonkhwa Milli Awami party are not in favor of FATA merger. They also have their own reasons to oppose the otherwise majority opinion.
On the other hand, political administration and maliks of FATA are against the merger with KP. Their antagonism to the mainstreaming is due to the perks they are enjoying under the status quo. They want to keep monopoly over power, the end of which will end their influence in the region. The process of empowerment for the larger public always takes the powers away from the people and institutions who enjoy it during the status quo.
To resolve the conflict and to move towards mutual acceptability and to come to peace, all the parties have to search a common ground to reach a working consensus. It could only be possible if the government is to ensure the maliks that government will give them certain privileges to their satisfaction. Similarly, the government has also to take political administration in confidence and ensure that they would be adjusted in the new set up that will functional under the district management system instead of the system of political agentry structured around agencies and Frontier Regions, FRs.
As for the political opposition by the two political parties PKMAP doesn’t have a strong vote bank in KP and FATA. There is but a need to negotiate with JUI(F), headed by Maulana Fazl Ur Rahman, who (along with PKMAP) is also a coalition partner with PML(N) at the federal level.
A national consensus on the issue of mainstreaming FATA could only be built if the interests of the people are FATA are given precedence in any discourse on the issue. It is only through a humane approach to the land and people of FATA that mainstreaming would be possible. We need to go beyond our narrow interests to beat the colonial legacy to give the people of FATA their due right to citizenry in Pakistan.
Contributed by Ijaz Ahmad