Fata should not be made a province

Published: May 4, 2010
The writer has served as head of the ISI and MI for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (asad.munir@tribune.com.pk)

The writer has served as head of the ISI and MI for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata ([email protected])

This article is in response to Mr Ayaz Wazir’s article “Make Fata a province, too”published on April 30 2010. The area in question has special status. Laws that govern the rest of Pakistan do not necessarily apply to the 3.17 million people living in the 27,200 kilometres of the federally administered tribal areas. Fata comprises seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions.

At the time of the census in 1998, some areas of the region were administratively inaccessible; therefore the census may not have included them. Taking into consideration the annual growth of population of around two per cent, the present population of Fata may be around 4.2 million. The areas are administered through the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) with a political agent as the head of administration. He has staff for various administrative sub-units but there are no courts, police or other federal departments in Fata.

The onus for controlling crime in the area lies squarely on the tribes there, under a concept of ‘collective responsibility’. The FCR as a whole is not a ‘black law’ as propagated by some elements which are clearly not familiar with these regulations. There are, however, some clauses which require amendments. When Pakistan was created there were only four tribal areas — Khyber, Kurram, South Waziristan and North Waziristan. The other three agencies – Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai – and six frontier regions were established by the government.

All these areas are dependent on Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for their logistics and provisions. Except for Pashtunwali and riwaj there are hardly any common features for Fata to qualify for the status of a separate province. Bajaur and Mohmand are linked through a road, as are North and South Waziristan. Beyond this there are no links connecting the seven agencies and frontier regions. The issue of making the tribal areas a separate province was never raised and thus it was not on the constitution committee’s agenda.

The point that tribal areas were neglected in the past is accurate, to some extent. However, now the annual budget for Fata is about Rs11 billion for a population of 4.2 million. To bring Fata into the mainstream and change its status, a tribal consensus will be required. In all probability, they would never opt for a change in the present system. They are enjoying almost all the facilities of an average Pakistani village.

And since the laws of the country are not applicable to them, tribes enjoy relatively more freedom, which they would want to retain, than an average, under-privileged Pashtun in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. With the present status of Fata, the administration cannot be run without the FCR. It can only be done away with if the agencies are converted into districts and all laws of the state are extended to these areas. Initially, the concept of a local government may be introduced. Political parties should be allowed to function.

Elections of local bodies on a party basis may change the mindset of tribal people and mentally prepare them to accept change in the prevailing system. The tribal system is a primitive one and while it can address simple disputes it cannot resolve complex, social issues. Once the time is right for change, Fata should be merged with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Geography, resources, population and finances are all credible reasons due to which Fata should not get the status of a province.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • May 4, 2010 - 2:28AM

    “The FCR as a whole is not a ‘black law’ as propagated by some elements which are clearly not familiar with these regulations.” Really? The fact that women and children have to bear the punishment for the action of a set of individuals of the same tribe, does not do justice to themselves and neither to us as a nation which tolerates this system.

    Our view on the FCR seems to be pragmatic, as any change in it would lead to administrative headaches and a strain on finances. True, but as citizens of Pakistan they have a right to the same privledges (if any) as that of settled regions.

    I guess as the former head of the ISI and MI the author is used to living above the law. I appreciate it must be really hard to empathize with people who in your own words “They are enjoying almost all the facilities of an average Pakistani village.” Those facilities are not much to begin with. The quality of life that they deserve sir, as all citizens of this country do, should be equivalent to what you have received at the tax payers expense. Yes the staff cars, the servants, the plots, the mess halls, the subsidized groceries at the CSD.

    Ofcourse now offering all those to common citizens who have not given “qurbani” for their country would be an upfront to brave officers everywhere. So at the very least, repel law such as the FCR that treat your fellow citizens as second class citizens. Recommend

  • Shahid
    May 4, 2010 - 6:47AM

    A colonial law which gives out collective punishments and allows unchecked human rights abuses (beyond the already abysmal levels in Pakistan) has no place in our country, especially if we wish to become a democratic social welfare state. As Edroos said before me, anybody having enjoyed the luxury and perks at state expense would hardly realize what accepting the tribal areas into “mainland Pakistan” would have effects. Our ever notorious “intelligence agencies” and the establishment which aims to control Afghanistan after the US leaves in pursuit of its hegemonic ambitions would definitely appreciate an archaic FCR, an archaic system of governance (read colonial rule) and a general lawlessness so as to dominate the region and twist people as they wish.

    I hope we are one day able to teach the men in uniform that they guns they tot are paid for by our very own people and that the virtues of democracy are too much to be matched by self righteous, save-Pakistan opportunists.Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    May 4, 2010 - 1:08PM

    Firstly, what could be some positive aspects of FCR? FATA has been long ignored in terms of development; the inhabitants are treated as 3rd grade citizens and have little or no accesses to basic human necessities. What will be the right time for development of Fata? How much longer will we wait and see the region fall yet again to militants?Recommend

  • Asfandyar Khan
    May 4, 2010 - 1:13PM

    The piece is about changing status of FATA.The writer has not defended FCR and has recommended changes in certain clauses.Apparently both edroos and shahid have not read the FCR and they have little idea about the governance of FATA.Instead of commenting on the subject they are more focused on the writer’s service in ISI and MI.Please read the article again.He has recommended that political parties be allowed to function in FATA.His point is that FATA population,resources,economy dictates that it should not be made a province.The Government has tried to change the status of FATA in the past also,but Tribal have resisted all such moves.This is what the writer has pointed out.I am against Army interference in politics and hold them responsible for the mess created in this country.I am a supporter of democracy but one should be objective in his comments.I have no doubt, that in case “head of ISI and MI” was not written with the name of the writer, the substance of your comments would have been objective.Recommend

  • May 4, 2010 - 1:45PM

    I think it is a nice article although I have certain reservations with a few of the points.

    To start with I think FATA should be converted into a settled region as the rest of the country is. The FCR is certainly, a “black law” and it should be removed. I agree that people there do enjoy relative freedom but this freedom bring with it some negative repercussions as well, like it giving safe heaven to criminals from all over the country.

    Plus converting it into another province would give the people of the region more rights and financial freedom and at the same time would improve the standard of living of those living there.

    @ Nadir

    This was least expected of you that you would start attacking the person instead of the idea (Attack the Idea Not the Person – AINP). I think it is utterly shameful. This attitude is similar to the that of Mr. Zaid Hamid’s supporter who retort to allegations of being RAW agent and stuff.

    @ Shahid

    The democracy being a blessing is a myth. The dangers that democracy poses to a society far out weight its advantages. If you want I can elaborate on this further as well. Recommend

  • May 4, 2010 - 1:47PM

    I agree with most of what Asfandyar Khan saidRecommend

  • Nadir El-Edroos
    May 4, 2010 - 3:27PM

    I just find it disapointing that a public servant, privy to the information that he has, would say something like “In all probability, they would never opt for a change in the present system. They are enjoying almost all the facilities of an average Pakistani village.

    Believe me had anyone made such a statement “enjoying almost all the facilities of an average Pakistani village” I would have said exactly the same. How can a public servant say something like that? As if drones hovering over your head, militancy, a broken economy is “average” or something to satisfied with. Recommend

  • Aqeel Khan
    May 4, 2010 - 3:47PM

    The article is about change of status of FATA,whether it should be declared a province or not?It is not about FCR.FATA is being governed through FCR.Pakistani laws are not extended to Tribal areas.An alternative regulations are required before abolition of FCR.Once constitution is abrogated by a military dictator he promulgate martial law.Edroos and Shahid are not very clear on the subject.Because of their bitterness against Army they have failed to grasp the contents of this article.I have no doubt that they are not familiar with tribal areas and the system of governance.Their observations are based on gossip and half truths.Instead of commenting on status of FATA they have discussed perks enjoyed by Army Officers,which have no relevance with the subject.

    Please read the article again.Recommend

  • May 4, 2010 - 4:19PM

    Edroos and Shahid, have you read the article?Is it about Army officers of FATA?Please go through your comments again.I am sure you would realize that your comments have no relevance with the subject.

    By the way what has CSD got to do with FATA?It is not about FCR also.You have based your arguments on some news reports that FCR is a black law.The whole Regulations are not draconian,but few clauses. These clauses ,though not part of any written law,are practiced in Punjab and Sind also by the Police.Family members of absconders are apprehended, to pressurize him to surrender.If you read with a biased mind,you are likely to miss the points raised,and highlight your ignorance about the subject you are commenting upon.Recommend

  • May 4, 2010 - 4:40PM

    I disagree, we need more provinces…Like alot more. If we want a government of the people we need to concentrate power locally rather than having a power hungry central government.

    Empower the locals, give them legitimate power and make them a part of the nation. Otherwise they have no stake in the success of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Khan
    May 4, 2010 - 4:50PM

    I agree with the article. It doesn’t make any sense to have FATA as a separate province. Most of all Geographically.
    However, Edroose and Shahid, really disappoint me. Instead of reading the article, they have let their emotions against the Army, lead them astray. Gentlemen! The article is not about the Army, its about the status of FATA. You seem to have no idea about the tribal areas and FCR, do you? The piece has been written in response to an earlier article “MAKE FATA A PROVINCE”. Instead of commenting on the article you are discussing staff cars, CSD, and that the army is enjoying perks on the taxes being paid by you? What has Army got to do with status of FATA? If u have been aggrieved by the Army please write an article on yours and the nation’s suffering or comment on one that has already been written (you may have to google it). As for this article, please comment objectively. Do you want FATA to be a province or not? This is the topic. And please stop this hate towards your own army. Recommend

  • Naveed
    May 4, 2010 - 5:03PM

    Iam sorry to be taking names here but Mr. Edross and Shahid are clearly coming up with pre conceived notions that they have inherited. A person with an individual thinking would not be commenting like this on such a sensitive issue at a time when our Army is trying to focus on fighting the menace.

    Alot of people have been critical hitherto of the perks which the Senior Army Officers enjoy but my request would be to please consider the fact that only a small amount of Officers reach to the point where they become eligible for a staff car.

    I am not a part of the accused institution here and let me also mention that I am a taxpayer as well. I m only 28 years old, I had 8 friends who were martyred in the Army Opertaions recently (they didnt get to sit in a staff car), they have left mourning parents and siblings behind. Had they not been martyred, they might have had a staff car to sit in 30 years from now only to be blamed by sore people like you.

    Sitting in your cozy homes, surfing through the internet and posting preposterous comments deviating from the subject is an easy thing to do as compared to standing infront of the bullets. Taking bullets is a brave things to do even if your motive is to get a staff car instead of saving you fellow country men.

    I absolutely despise people who do not base their arguments on logic.

    I am absolutely content with the fact that my Tax money is going into buying bullets which are used to kill the enemies of our country. Recommend

  • Meeno
    May 4, 2010 - 5:55PM

    Thinking is guaranteed to every human being, but clear thinking is not.Edroos this saying is tailor made for you.Your whole thought process is muddled up.How do you know the writer is a public servant now?You have no idea about Pashtoons and Tribal.They would never let the government to change the status of FATA.Are u aware that on what conditions they decided to opt for Pakistan in 1947?You are a liberal version of Zaid Hamid.But u r lucky being ignorant is a blessing.Recommend

  • Ammar Zafarullah
    May 4, 2010 - 6:17PM

    Quote: “To bring Fata into the mainstream and change its status, a tribal consensus will be required. In all probability, they would never opt for a change in the present system. They are enjoying almost all the facilities of an average Pakistani village“.

    Allow me to put forth some statistics:

    i) Litereacy rate in Pakistan is 43.92% and for Khyper Pahktoonkhwa 35.41
    Whereas the literacy rate for FATA is 17.42 % notice any difference?
    ii) Moving on the litreacy ratio for females in Pakistan is 32.02
    for Khyper Pahktoonkhwa :18.82 and for FATA it ranks a mere 3 %, the disparity is quite obvious( Some sources rank female literacy in FATA as low as 0.5 %)!!

    iii) Almost the same amount of facilities well as per empirical data there is one doctor per 1,226 persons in Pakistan, for Khyper Pahktoonkhwa it is one doctor per 4,916 person and for FATA there is one doctor per 7,670 person.. The argument is that the authors assertion that people in FATA enjoy the same amount of facilities is grossly inaccurate, thus for an informed reader the outrage is comprehensible. The credentials of Mr.Munir’s as security analyst is widely respect and while some of us may have directed their critique on his professional afflictions this piece lacks substantive arguments.

    The figures that I have mentioned are taken from the official FATA secretariat website http://www.fata.gov.pk/subpages/socioeconomic.php

    I shall elaborate upon Why F.A.T.A should not be merged and given an independent autonomous status and why FCR is inherently flawed and there is nothing good about it in another post! Lets keep this debate alive and productive !Recommend

  • Khan
    May 4, 2010 - 6:36PM

    Bravo Naveed!!

    You know what I think? The strongest of human vices is an urge for recognition in the society. A lot of people just want to get attention. This can really play with their ability to stay objective. I once spoke to a gentleman and was quite dismayed by the his negative comments about Quaid-e-Azam and a holier than thou attitude in his understanding of the subject. I kept asking him for sources and at last he said go read the book, Freedom at Midnight (Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre). Unfortunate for him, I had read as well as Stanley Wolpert’s biography and that’s when it hit me. Reading that one book had been such a daunting task for him, that he had reached the end of his intellectual capacity and had decided to agree with what the book said about Jinnah and would propagate it more than Lapierre himself. For attention?
    Alas! I’ve seen so many articles with people talking about nothing they have experienced or understand, but more about how they can get some attention. Here in the UK, every single man that dies in Afghanistan is mourned for by the whole nation, even if many of them are against the war in Afghanistan. Only about 280 British soldiers have died in the past ten years compared to the thousands who have sacrificed their life in the Pakistan Army and what do they get? A self conceited people more interested in just a bit of attention.Recommend

  • asad munir
    May 4, 2010 - 7:07PM

    I have been associated with FATA for more than 15 years,in different capacities.I have been in charge of planning and development of FATA.Every administrative unit is run through some legal frame work.Pakistan is being administered through 1973 constitution,Tribal areas through Frontier Crimes Regulations(FCR).There are certain clauses in FCR which need to be amended,being inhuman.In 2005 a committee ,headed by a retired chief justice of the Supreme Court,made recommendations for amendments in FCR.These clauses are likely to be amended.Tribal do not want the status of agencies to be changed to settled areas.They are likely to resist any such move.It has to be a gradual process,starting with allowing political parties to function in tribal areas.Curtailing the power of political agents and introducing local government system.It may take time but there is no future for the tribal system to survive in the present complex social environment.FATA has representation of 12 MNAs and 8 Senators in the parliament.With less than 5 million population the best option is to merge FATA with Khyber Pashtunkhwa,provided the tribal agree to changing their status to settled areas. Recommend

  • Asim Saeed
    May 4, 2010 - 11:23PM

    I enjoyed the nice debate on the issue of FCR and FATA, and was very impressed by the eloquence of all sides. Coming to the topic, my first comment is that whatever has been written by Asad Munir, is at best or worst an informed opinion of a person, who has been at the helm of affairs in the northern areas including FATA for a considerable time. He probably is privy to much more insight and information than most of us. We must give him benefit of that. Secondly, unfortunately statistics is THE WEAKEST AREA in Pakistan, all of the data is churned out by the officials just as a paper pushing exercise, no genuine plan can ever be made based on the data shown in Pakistan Economic Survey or any other stats.

    We need to clearly elaborate the issue, identify the problems, set clear objective, and explain what are the indented results that we are aiming to achieve. Only then can we have a fruitful and positive discussion.

    If the goal is to improve the state of our fellow Pakistanis living in the FATA region, than WE MUST INVOLVE THEM IN THE DISCUSSION, and refrain from making decisions on their behalf. What is needed is an in-depth and detailed interaction with all factions that would be affected, explain them what we need to do and get their feedback and once we have a consensus by the majority we will have no problem getting acceptance for the change.

    While we are attempting to merge FATA into the main stream, can we pay some attention to national unity also? and try to prevent the the ever increasing chasms (ethnic, cultural, linguistic, geographic, religious, caste-based, etc. etc.) that are growing by leaps and bounds. And try and do something practical for that, not just remain carpet-knights? Food for Thought! Recommend

  • Yasmin khalid
    May 5, 2010 - 12:29AM

    Every pakistani is fed up of the police system the judicial system yet we expect the tribals to own this system. They will never agree, and with the tribal rivalaries, expecting that they will like to co-exist in one province, one assembly? Recommend

  • nasser yousaf
    May 5, 2010 - 12:36PM

    When all is said -and done, and we have a province comprising the tribal area, since the political agents would be gone and forgotten, the DC Khyber district would have his offices in Landikotal and not in Peshawar Cantonment like his predecessor PA and the DCs SW and Orakzai will have their offices in Wana or Makeen and Ferozkheh and not in Tank and Hangu. The Governor and CM FATA too will have their offices in FATA and all the Federal Ministers from the tribal belt will be making laws that will apply to their own people as well (what a grotesque comedy of errors we have where legislators from FATA are acting as legislators for the settled areas and framing laws that do not apply to their own people). Similarly all the thousands of civil servants including those in the executive, police, teachers, doctors, engineers, tehsildars, patwaris so on and so forth recruited in the provincial service against the zone 1 quota for the tribal areas will also then be required to be repatriated to their home province where hopefully they will contribute to the development of their areas. The NGOs working for FATA will also shift their offices from Peshawar and elsewhere and be able to collect and rely on more credible data and information by having their offices in the areas for which they are supposed to be working. There will be little rhetoric and more action and peace will prevail in the area. Brig Asad better stop insisting on including them in the KPkhwa. Let everybody face the reality.Recommend

  • Conscious
    May 5, 2010 - 3:28PM

    I think that FATA should be a province. Pakistan needs more provinces with local governments. I think that federal government and the current 4 provinces are not enough to oversea the development and administration of all the territories. Federally administered tribal areas should be a separate province where local people have the autonomy to choose their representatives through elections. The current seven agencies and 6 frontier regions can no longer be administered by the Frontier Crimes Regulation as it was set in 1901 by the British devised to counter the fierce opposition of the Pashtuns to British rule, and their main objective was to protect the interests of the British Empire. Neither can the Jirga system be allowed to exist as Pakistan needs to improve it’s judiciary system.

    Federally administered Agencies are a part of Pakistan and the Jurisdiction of Supreme Court and High Court of Pakistan needs to be extended to FATA. The whole purpose of establishing more provinces is to provide greater autonomy and ownership to the people of the neglected, deprived, uneducated, poor, areas of Pakistan. The focus now has to be, on how many provinces to establish,how many ministers should be appointed, to make sure that provinces are not based on the ethnic grounds, to curb militant extremism and to minimise corruption, providing education and basic human rights, overall to improve the economic, political and social structure of Pakistan. There are examples of the tribal based failed states and the examples of successful states based on a lot more provinces or states. Recommend

  • Naveed
    May 5, 2010 - 3:56PM

    Mr. Nasser, would you be kind enough to throw some light on the following (I would love to have a critical view as it would enable me to gain some precious knowledge).

    The leader of the Province (if it happens)might be inclined towards one of the tribes or may be a part of a particular tribe and as a consequence might not be able to be just to other tribes or so would the other tribes perceive(keeping the war like history of these tribes in mind) thus giving rise to a great political unrest eventualy disrupting all the development you have pointed out above and taking the province further back from where it started.

    Isnt making FATA a province more than just a Parliamentary Approval. Arent the building blocks of a movement relating to making a province rooted to people’s wishes? (Do they have THE wish)

    Mr. Asad’s article indicates that he is not against FATA to be made a Province but indicates the factors which might not be helpful/fruitful if an attempt is made to grant FATA, the Provincial Status.Recommend

  • Khan
    May 5, 2010 - 5:19PM

    Mr Nassar it would be nice to have the Wild Wild West turned into a new province overnight. But we’ll have to do something about the security aspect, in a land where a simple tomato seller has an AK47. Since all normal houses in FATA have proper bastions and towers for defence, so following the local example, we won’t have offices, we’ll have strongholds. The DCs (who will all be knighted ofcourse) will have fortresses and the Governer will have a castle. It’ll be so nice. Some Medieval fun.
    This is all good, but I strongly suggest we don’t go ahead with turning FATA into a province overnight. Because even if we disregard the obvious fact that a nasant province with no infrastructure, geographical connections or means for self sustenance makes no sense, a much larger problem arises.
    Re-naming the medieval province. FATA will claim that NWFP has no right to the name Khyber and we’ll have to rename both provinces. FATA will be called Kyber and NWFP will be called Pakhtunkhwa. Then after a couple of years some genius will come up with an idea of making a federation of the two provinces as both have ethnic Pashtuns who want some kind of ‘Anshlus’. This mini federation will be called the Khyber-Pakhunkhwa Province. So the end result will be what Brig Asad is suggesting now. FATA merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.Recommend

  • nasser yousaf
    May 6, 2010 - 8:55AM

    Pl read my notes again. I have pointed out just a few of the indicators from the reality-check list to those urbanite tribesmen who have for all practical purposes forsaken their homes in FATA and are now indulging in fanciful imagination of a province while sitting in arm chairs in their cozy houses in Peshawar and Islamabad. Given a choice, not even one per cent of the tribesmen employed in the settled districts would like to serve in the tribal areas. If FATA is to become a province all these people and those talking ad nauseum on various channels will have to go back and participate in the development of their area. I recently read an interview of Mr. Hameedullah, Minister for Environment, in which he vociferously called for a province for tribesmen separate from KPkhwa. The interview makes me laugh uncontrollably each time I happen to see this gentleman on the tv screen. Could someone pl tell me when did this gentleman, dressed up to the nines, last visit his home in BARA? Its all to easy to be in the limelight but virtually impossible to be in the heat of the things in the tribal belt these days. As things are, urbabanite tribesmen having access to the media want a province but no police stations and no courts and no taxes. They do not even want the whole of FCR to go; they just want the joint responsibility clause to be thrown out of the window.Recommend

  • Naveed
    May 6, 2010 - 3:15PM

    “Brig Asad better stop insisting on including them in the KPkhwa. Let everybody face the reality”. (This is an extract from Mr. Nasser’s previous post)

    The reality that you talked about above was a little contradictory to what you have written in your last post, isnt it? Well, ok lets drop the idea of including FATA in KPKhwa, could you please define reality?

    You may disagree, but to me reality is that no tribesman would ever be willing to give up on the freedom they enjoy. If a public consensus is whats needed to trigger the movement for a province than IMO you may not be even able to start off, let alone taking the demand to the table. This is one factor which directly depends on the various factors/reasons pointed out by Mr. Asad in his attampt to covey as to why FATA province is not the best solution.Recommend

  • Awan
    May 11, 2010 - 8:26AM

    I agree with your thoughts. I think positively changes can get in FATA through apply your suggestions. And many problems can resolve which are facing peoples of FATA.Recommend

  • Farah Syed
    May 12, 2010 - 2:51AM

    Pakistan is not in a position to make any decision about whether or not to make FATA a province. There are countless other issues facing the country of Pakistan at the moment. In 62 years we could not even solve the most basic of problems, and now the question arises over whether or not we should recognize FATA as an independent province? It is high time that people learn to understand that by creating one province, and fragmenting Pakistan, countless other areas will cry out for a chance to be a province as well, which is not in the best financial interest of our country.
    I am in complete agreement with the writer Mr. Munir. I also understand that yes, measures should be taken to improve the living conditions of FATA, however granting them a separate province? That proposal has no grounds in improving our already struggling nation.

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