Merwah Qureshi |
FATA is the region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan from the north and the west, Baluchistan from the south and KP from the east. With the 27000 sq. km of area and a 5.002 million tribal population, it holds immense geostrategic importance for the South Asian region. After the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror, this region has become an integral yet unsolvable part of Pakistan’s foreign as well as domestic policy. From the security lens FATA has become the weakest link in the chain of national security policy. It poses critical security and socio-political threats to the entire region.
Internal Dynamics of FATA
Under Article 247 FATA is the federally administered area in which the Governor of KP exercises the federal authority by the consent of the President. It lacks a strong socio-political and administrative structure. Moreover, it works under the black law i.e FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulation) 1901. Due of the absence of jurisdiction of the Supreme and High court, the rule of the jungle prevails there. Furthermore, the porous border with Afghanistan further adds to its instability from a security point of view. All these factors have critically hampered the development and growth of this area and have made it a bane for Pakistan’s national development and security.
How to Solve this Decades Old Riddle?
Here, the question arises how to convert this bane to a boon for the national and regional development. There are currently two schools of thought regarding this burning question i.e the federalist school of thought that favors the FATA KP merger and the separatist school of thought that shuns the aforementioned solution and favors the other way around. However, there is a dire need of viable solution for this FATA conundrum or else it can become a malignant cancer for the country as a whole.
FATA has become the Achilles heel of Pakistan.
Read more: Supreme Court jurisdiction extended to FATA
Separatist Approach: Provincial Status
Separatist school of thought favors the separate provincial status for FATA. The forerunners of this school of thought opine that FATA has all the rights to be given a separate provincial status. If small countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many other countries can have multiple states/provinces then why not Pakistan. Moreover, they say that FATA can only progress if it would be given a provincial status.
Under Article 247 FATA is the federally administered area in which the Governor of KP exercises the federal authority by the consent of the President. It lacks a strong socio-political and administrative structure.
The provincial status would help FATA in the development by giving it the due share in NFC (National Finance Commission), by the formation of a provincial government and by implementing a strong provincial bureaucratic and legal structure. Thus, this would make FATA self-sufficient and self-governed to a measurable extent. On the same hand, they are of the view that as the customs and traditions of the tribal people of FATA are different than that of the people of other regions of Pakistan, it is the fundamental right of the tribal populace of FATA to have a separate province.
Read more: Will FATA finally merge in KPK?
Federalist Approach: Merger with KP
Contrarily, the federalist school of thought supports the merger of FATA with KP as a safe and sound solution for the contemporary security and developmental challenges. The propagators of this school of thought hold the view that for a separate province there needs to be an independent provincial government, a strong provincial administrative and financial structure, an effective statutory and legal system and a vibrant society.
All these are several pre-requisites for a separate and an independent province that FATA lacks. Another factor which makes the provincial status of FATA a far-fetched dream is the security dynamic of this region. Having a porous border with Afghanistan and the absence of strong security forces of its own is a challenge for the stability of the region and the country. Moreover, FATA has no central point that can help it in communicating with all seven agencies.
If small countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many other countries can have multiple states/provinces then why not Pakistan. Moreover, they say that FATA can only progress if it would be given a provincial status.
Furthermore, the act of giving provincial status to FATA will ignite the fire of provincial campaigns -from Gilgit-Baltistan to Karachi- all across the country which would lead to a more chaotic situation nationwide. So, Pakistan while currently facing multiple geostrategic, geopolitical and economic challenges cannot afford to give FATA a separate provincial status. Hence, the contemporary predicament of Pakistan doesn’t favor the separatist approach.
Read more: Questioning the merger of FATA with KPK
Conclusively, FATA has become the Achilles heel of Pakistan. It seems impossible for Pakistan to realize her dreams of peace, prosperity and development without solving the FATA question prudently. After the comprehensive analysis of the current national situation, merger of FATA with KP stands out to be the most viable solution of this pervasive FATA enigma. Moreover, the regional hostile environment further advocates the merger solution to this burning question. To make FATA and Pakistan prosperous its merger with KP should be implemented in letter and in spirit.