The government took the first steps to make the tribal areas of Pakistan a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by introducing a merger with a 10-year reform package to bring them at par with other developing areas of the country. This step was applauded by some whilst criticized by many. In fact, the critics site Quaid e Azam’s promise that the Pakistan government would respect the customs and traditions of the Pukhtun and would honor agreements with the tribes. The Quaid immediately set the tone for the new nation of Pakistan’s treatment of the Pukhtun by withdrawing Army troops from FATA, which were a constant presence during British rule and were hated by the local population.
The few optimistic people
“The war in the last 10 years has left tribal areas in ruins. The region is massively underdeveloped and needs to be integrated in the mainstream,”-Imran Khan
Many leaders came out in support of this step by the government. PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday said merging FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will help to put an end to the growing menace of terrorism. Many leaders in the military and the government believe that this course of action may be the best way to tackle terrorism and terrorists whom they believe have turned FATA into sanctuaries due to the government’s inability to control the area. Mr. Babar claimed that most of the political parties, apart from two non-FATA-based coalition partners of the government, wanted its merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“If we want to reap the benefits from Operation Zarb-i-Azb and National Action Plan, it is essential to merge Fata [with KP],” -Imran Khan
Read more: Long-Awaited Judicial Reforms in FATA
“First, they were dislocated in the name of the country’s greater national security; now their identities are being questioned and they are being forced to cross the Durand Line,”- Fazlur Rehman
Some have opposed the idea of the merger as they believe it may spark unrest in these areas. Fazlur Rehman drew parallels between the Line of Control (LoC) and the Durand Line, saying: “The two lines are undefined international borders; just as we have claims across the LoC, those living on the other side of the Durand Line have their own views. This is why the Fata region needs careful handling.” He claimed that the committee’s report on FATA reforms was far from ground realities and termed it a mere “showpiece”. Many of the other critics of this merger were the tribal leaders and MNA’s.
“a decision in relation to the merger of any part of the tribal area falls within the exclusive domain/jurisdiction of the President of Pakistan or his representative, the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province”.-Article 247 (6) of the Constitution
A group of tribal elders challenged government plans to bring the FATA into the mainstream, the primary step of which entails its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A petition filed by the tribal elders under Article 247 (6) of the Constitution belonging to various agencies questioned the Prime Minister’s authority on taking this crucial decision.
Read more: Merger of FATA: to be or not to be?
The approved steps for the merger
- Over Rs110 billion development package, proposed by a six-member Fata reforms committee, was approved for the seven agencies of the tribal region.
- Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court will be extended to FATA, where a new blend of judicial and traditional jirga system will provide justice to people.
- Introduction of local government (LG) system, education and jobs opportunities for youth. However, LG polls will be held after 2018 general elections.
“We had four options for mainstreaming of Fata: to keep the status quo, to form a council on the pattern of Gilgit-Baltistan, to form a separate province or to merge it with KP — and we opted for the last one,”-Sartaj Aziz
These decisions were taken at a meeting of the Federal Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House and the reform package will soon be sent to President Mamnoon Hussain for final approval and then a constitutional process will be initiated to implement it.
Questions start to surface
Many questions have arisen in the wake of this decision by the government. For example the status of military garrisons in FATA? Will the tribal system clash with the laws of the rest of the country? How will tribal leaders act? How will the influence of the Taliban be removed? Whether this step may actually help in stopping the flow of terrorists or will it help push the locals to their side? And finally, whether this is a horrible idea which may result in catastrophe? The events in the near future will answer all these queries.