Taimur Khan |
The infamous Elaqa-e-Ghair or No Mans’ Land, officially known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) formally became part of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province after subsequent approvals from the National Assembly of Pakistan, the Senate of Pakistan, and the KP Provincial Assembly in the month of May this year. The bill, also known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ Reforms Bill was signed into law by the President of Pakistan on May 31, 2018.
The FATA Reforms Bill was passed by the National Assembly with an overwhelming majority as the 31st Constitutional Amendment Bill. A total of 229 parliamentarians voted in favor of the bill while only 11 opposed it. The KP assembly was no different as 92 MPAs out of the house of 124 voted in favor of the bill. The Upper House of the Pakistani Legislature (Senate) approved the bill with 71 votes in favor while 5 opposing the bill. The opposition throughout the houses came from only two political parties, namely Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, Fazal (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
The proper implementation of the FATA Reforms will ensure political, economic and social incorporation into mainstream and eliminate the feelings of alienation among the people of FATA and promote inclusiveness and create a sense of responsibility for Pakistan as well.
The approval of the FATA Reforms Bill was a historic event in Pakistan. The bill, which translates into the merger of seven agencies and six frontier regions with KP province will usher a new era of development, peace, and prosperity for the people of the region and will contribute significantly to the progress of the country as a whole. The passing of the reforms bill means that there are no ungoverned spaces or areas in Pakistan anymore.
For the past seven decades, political elite and policy-makers of Pakistan kept the matter of FATA’s merger with KP in a limbo and ruled FATA via a draconian law of the colonial era, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The best part about FATA-KP merger is the fact that people of FATA will now have equal rights and opportunities as the rest of the citizens of Pakistan. Until 1997, the people of FATA were not even allowed to vote in the general elections of the country.
Read more: The Constitutional Matrix of FATA
Now, after the passing of the FATA Reforms Bill, the people of FATA will have the right (like other Pakistanis) to vote for candidates of their choice in the general elections but they will also be a part of the Political Parties Act of Pakistan which will allow them to contest in the general elections and form political organizations as well.
Failure of subsequent governments over the years to address the issues of poverty, basic human rights and exclusion from national economic and constitutional affairs led to the political, social and economic alienation of FATA’s population. The people of FATA have been facing an identity crisis for the past several decades. This alienation subsequently created space for extremism and militancy to take roots in FATA. Due to that militancy, the Pakistani Armed Forces have been fighting an intense war against terrorism and extremism that was mainly rooted in the FATA region.
The Senate of Pakistan, and the KP Provincial Assembly in the month of May this year. The bill, also known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ Reforms Bill was signed into law by the President of Pakistan on May 31, 2018.
However, the planned extension of constitutional mechanisms to FATA offers a vital opportunity to the decision-makers of Pakistan to address the challenges of governance, security, and economy that have been ignored since the very beginning. Having acquired all the prerequisite legislative and executive approvals pertaining to FATA-KP merger, it is high time for reforms to be practically implemented. The political and economic reforms should be given top priority here. It should be ensured that adult franchise is extended to the people of FATA to enable them to vote in the upcoming general elections and to form their own political parties if they choose to do so. The jurisdiction and writ of the Supreme Court of Pakistan should be established in the FATA region in order to ensure the availability of efficient legal structure to provide justice to the people of FATA.
Furthermore, it is imperative to formulate a comprehensive economic plan for the region in order to uplift the FATA region, generate employment opportunities for the people of FATA and to improve the standard and quality of life of the locals of FATA who have been the major victims of militancy and extremism for the past one decade and had to suffer due to the military conquests of the Pakistani Armed Forces to rid the area from terrorists. The implementation of economic reforms in FATA will also help the country in marginalizing the extremist sentiments and forces in the region as well.
This alienation subsequently created space for extremism and militancy to take roots in FATA. Due to that militancy, the Pakistani Armed Forces have been fighting an intense war against terrorism and extremism that was mainly rooted in the FATA region.
FATA-KP merger is a huge development with phenomenal impact on the lives of people living in FATA as well as for the overall security paradigm of Pakistan. On the security front, Pakistan will now be able to consolidate the gains made by the country in counter-terrorism and against militancy. The FATA-KP merger will also enable Pakistan to resolve border disputes with neighboring Afghanistan and control the border for terrorists and criminal activities such as smuggling and narco-trafficking. Unfortunately, FATA never had any institutionalized local law enforcement bodies.
Now that the FATA Reforms Bill has been signed into law, the state will now be able to establish and develop various administrative and law enforcement bodies, such as a regular police force and other law enforcement agencies, which will be helpful in both establishing a broad security infrastructure, establish writ of the government, ensure peace and improve the overall security situation in FATA. The FATA-KP merger is a very good omen for the progress and prosperity of the tribal people and Pakistan in general.
The time is right for the most difficult part of the process, the genuine and comprehensive implementation of the reforms practically on the ground. The proper implementation of the FATA Reforms will ensure political, economic and social incorporation into the mainstream and eliminate the feelings of alienation among the people of FATA and promote inclusiveness and create a sense of responsibility for Pakistan as well. If not, then the people of FATA in particular and Pakistan, in general, will continue to bear the brunt of the existing instability of the region and external, anti-Pakistan elements will keep on manipulating this vulnerability of Pakistan.
Mr. Muhammad Taimur Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.