Transformation of FATA

Transformation of FATA: An Overview of the Report of the Committee on FATA Reforms

 

Background

            FATA is inhabited by 5 million persons and is facing multiple problems of endemic poverty that is the highest in Pakistan, along with the lowest development indicators. There is huge deficit of human rights faced by the people as the protection under fundamental rights that are available to other Pakistanis are not applicable in FATA. It has been facing the blight of insurgency and the state having little control over large swathes of its territory. Its spaces had been suborned by armed national and international militant groups, who challenged the writ of the state and threatened international security too. It is for these latter reasons that FATA Reforms figure prominently under point 12 of the National Action Plan formulated for undertaking counter measures against terrorism.

To resolve the multiple problems faced in FATA, the Prime Minister formed a high level FATA Reform Committee on 3.11.2015 to consult the tribesmen and all other stakeholders before formulating recommendations. The six-member Committee undertook an extensive consultative process, lasting for more than eight months and in line with provisions of Article 247 (6) of the Constitution. They visited all tribal agencies and Frontier Regions and held meetings with the elected representatives —as well as businessmen, tribal elders (Maliks), educated youth, religious leaders and members of civil society and was also briefed by experts on FATA, before it finalized its recommendations.

            The committee reviewed previous endeavors for FATA reforms in the past. It also took into consideration the unanimous resolution of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assembly of 7th May 2012, demanding the representation of FATA in the provincial assembly. On 7th September 2015, 19 FATA parliamentarians moved a Constitutional Amendment bill advocating integration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The committee reviewed the over-all security situation in the context of achievements of the on-going Zarb-e-Azb operation that had restored peace and stability. The violence in FATA had created 338,000 TDP families who were living away from their homes; this had denuded FATA of its social structure too. According to one calculation, since FATA was not a part of a province, it was excluded from receiving its adequate share of financial resources from the NFC; for instance, during the past five years FATA received 45% less per capita investment than available in the provinces. The committee recognized that if appropriate reforms were not introduced early, the advantages obtained from the Zarb-e-Azb operation will be lost.

Reform Considerations

            The Committee recognized the unique features of FATA’s tribal society established policy guidelines for itself while making its recommendations. These were;

  • It must be ensured that the reforms lead to an improvement in the lives of the tribesmen
  • The reforms must respect local Rewaj and Jirgas while formulating its recommendations
  • These reforms are aimed at transforming a geo-political buffer and they must not be allowed to fail or cause insecurity.
  • FATA Reforms are a process and not an end in themselves and should be so recognized
  • The situation must always be kept under constant review to prevent the emergence of risks that could threaten reforms
  • The government must make available the best officers to man the reform process and they should have longer tenures to ensure success.

 

Recommendations

·        The consultation process brought forward four options of transformation of FATA; a) maintain the status-quo with minor changes, b) or granting special status to FATA like Gilgit-Baltistan, c) or create a separate province for FATA, d) or integrating FATA into KP province recognizing the close horizontal linkages of agencies and FRs with the adjacent KP district. These trade and economic links were reinforced by social and cultural consanguinity with FATA tribes and thus it made more sense for FATA to integrate into KP.

·        FATA Reforms will only be meaningful if the TDPs return home and they are assisted to reconstruct their homes and shops damaged during the operations. It will also mean the re-establishment of destroyed or damaged infrastructure including those in the road, drinking water, health and education sectors.

·        The committee proposed investment in a 10 year FATA Development Program covering all the sectors; it will include development of urban centers in all the agencies.It is also proposed to connect certain FATA regions with CPEC.

·        The committee proposed the holding of local bodies elections in 2017; up to 30% of the FATA 10 Year Development Plan will be executed through the local councils.

·        To ensure availability of adequate resources for development of FATA on a long term basis, 3% share from the divisible pool has been proposed. This will be in addition to the existing annual development allocation of Rs 21 billion a year.

·        The FCR is proposed to be replaced by a new, “Tribal Areas Riwaj Act,” which will retain Riwaj and the Jirga system. Under this act the judge will not be the political agent but will be a judicial officer

·        The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Court shall stand extended to FATA. At the same time the Jirga system will remain prevalent in criminal and civil disputes. Furthermore, it is proposed to codify the ‘Riwaj’ in each agency.

·        To create security capacity 20,000 new posts of Levies for policing is proposed to be sanctioned. Better border management with Afghanistan shall be enforced with the addition of additional Frontier Corp and better surveillance.

·        It is proposed to carry out land settlement in FATA so that this land asset can be capitalized to release locked up funds.

·        It was also proposed to end the collection of toll taxes in the agencies that resulted in increasing costs and corruption.

Implementation Mechanisms

The following Implementation Mechanisms is proposed to be put in place to over-view the reform process and monitor achievements for review by the government; it will be based on; a) achieving sustained political engagement, b) experts will be provided at the technical level for reform implementation.

·        . The package of reforms will be delivered by a Directorate of Transition & Reforms established in FATA Secretariat.

·        A cabinet level Committee will be formed to over-see implementation of FATA Reforms

·        A Governor’s Advisory Council that includes all the parliamentarians will be established to advise the Governor in development and administrative matters, including the progress of the integration process

·        A reform unit will be established in SAFRON to oversee the entire process and report to the cabinet level committee

·        FATA Secretariat will be strengthened but without increasing its manpower so as not to create additional burden for KP.

Note

(You can send your views/comments on FATA Reforms to safron.feedback@gmail.com)