Governance Challenges in Ex-FATA region

The tribal people have pinned high hopes on the merger and if administrative machinery does not deliver as expected, it will deal a severe blow to the confidence of the people and the entire reforms agenda. Further, the slow progress on the implementation of reforms will also pave the way for an anti-state sentiment. Therefore, the success of the reforms depends on the state’s capability to identify the governance challenges and evolve a corrective strategic approach to mitigate them.

FATA

The post-conflict reconstruction (PCR) is never a smooth affair, necessitating the imperative of security, justice, governance and socio-economic well being of the people. The success of the reforms is dependent on the state’s capability to identify the challenges and evolve a coherent strategic approach to mitigate them. FATA

Post 25th constitutional amendment

Consequent to 25th constitutional amendment, Ex-FATA region stands merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province since May 2018 and currently passing through a transitional phase. Pakistan has introduced comprehensive reforms package to eradicate the remnants of terror outfits and undertake the socio-economic reconstruction of tribal areas.

However, as previously experienced, such initiatives are exceptionally planned on papers but remained low on execution. As a result, they run into multifaceted challenges during the implementation phase. The current reforms are also not free from enormous challenges and impediments.

Post Crisis Needs Assessment-2010 for the ex-FATA

It has been established that conflicts are necessarily a failure of governance. “Post Crisis Needs Assessment-2010” for the ex-FATA led by the KP government also highlighted severe lapses in the sphere of governance whose failure was one of the factors in the crisis itself. So, in the post-conflict epoch, instilling good governance plays a pivotal role in restoring peace and reconstruction initiatives.

Governance encompasses the creation of administrative institutions with strengthened public-sector management to provide inclusive public services in an accountable and transparent way. In PCR settings, they should be also able to undertake socio-economic interventions with financial discipline and foster participatory administration in harmony with democratic institutions. States face severe challenges if robust institutions for effective governance are not built and resourced to regain public trust.

Read More: A Terror Free Pakistan: Fatalities dip up to 31% in 2019

Improved governance in merged areas

The foremost challenge to improved governance in merged areas remains the sustained political will and support of constitutional institutes. By undertaking these landmark reforms, the political corps has already demonstrated an appreciative character. However, their perpetual supervisory and supportive role remains equally critical to the sustainability of the entire reforms agenda. Any inconstancy in focus due to their vested or party interests will upend the gains achieved.

Security plays a vital role in ensuring governance as it builds a secure foundation for the success of reforms. Although there is a significant improvement in the overall security landscape of merged areas, however, a lurking danger exists for the region to relapse back into the violence if not handled well or if there is no sustainable peace at Afghanistan. The enforcement capacity of the newly deployed police force also poses a significant challenge as more than new 180 civil and criminal laws need to enforced in those areas for the first time.

Entire governance apparatus revolves around competent bureaucracy and effective civil service. The absence of these elements is a critical challenge for the enforcement of good governance through improved delivery of public services. Similarly, current bureaucracy manning the key appointments whether at secretariat or in the field, need to be cognizant with the importance of the reforms. The business-as-usual in the face of humongous challenges and issues would only further aggravate them.

Read More: PTM Funding: The Role of RAW-NDS, Wealthy FATA Diaspora in the Gulf & Hostile Agencies

Allocation of the desired development fund

On the financial side, the federal and provincial governments have failed to garner a consensus on the allocation of the desired development fund of Rs. 100 billion per year over a decade, which pose a significant challenge to the entire reform agenda. Even if the funds are made available, there would still be problems regarding their accelerated and transparent utilisation by the concerned departments without requisite capacity.

In any post-conflict setting, community participation in the affairs of the government plays a vital role in sustainability and mostly it is achieved through the robust local government system. Under the previous administrative structure, the tribal region did not have any LG system. Therefore, introducing a system that is run by the locally elected representatives through a transparent process is key to strengthening democracy and making tribesmen shareholder in governance. The absence of community actors will impact the efforts for societal participation, feedback mechanism and public oversight in the conduct of the tribal governance.

Contrary to settled areas, the landholding in the tribal areas had been managed through the local traditions within tribes and sub-tribes. The state will face resistance when it would try to formalise the landholdings and enforce land revenue administration. The use of the Land Record Management Information System is likely to be resisted by the vested interests.

Read More: In historic first, tribal districts of ex-FATA go to polls

Changing the social culture and habits of the people ex-FATA 

Changing the social culture and habits of the people merged areas is again a daunting task. Encouraging people to pay taxes and utility bills will prove to be a herculean task, specially when they have been used to state subsidies.

The vested interests are also likely to oppose the promulgation of stricter customs and border laws and regulation of trade, primarily on Afghan trade routes. In some aspects, the tribal mindset is also a hindrance in the implementation of reforms. It resists changes and is more comfortable with the status quo as expressed in their preference for the traditional Jirga system.

Given the above challenges, there is a need to explore innovative and customised governance structures for the merged areas rather than blindly replicating the administrative systems from the settled areas. Understanding the mindset of the tribal people is critical to this endeavour. The intentions of the status quo forces should not be underestimated as they are very much capable of throwing spanners in the works of the reforms.

The tribal people have pinned high hopes on the merger and if administrative machinery does not deliver as expected, it will deal a severe blow to the confidence of the people and the entire reforms agenda. Further, the slow progress on the implementation of reforms will also pave the way for an anti-state sentiment. Therefore, the success of the reforms depends on the state’s capability to identify the governance challenges and evolve a corrective strategic approach to mitigate them.

The writer studied Conflict, Security and Development at the University of Sussex (UK) through Chevening award. He writes on conflicts, SDGs, governance and social issues in his personal capacity. Twitter: @AltafSarioThe views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

 

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