The planned political reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have been put on hold following serious reservations from the country’s security agencies, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The century-old legal regime in Fata, called Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), has long been seen by the tribesmen as violating basic human rights while secluding the region from modernity and progress.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced in his inaugural speech that the PPP-led government would bring “economic, social, and political reforms” to the tribal areas.
On August 14, 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari had announced the ambitious Fata reforms package – the aim was to do away with the sense of deprivation in the tribal areas where illiteracy and poverty have helped spread extremism and terrorism.
In March 2011, 10 major political parties of the country had unanimously agreed on the implementation of these reforms.
But sources told The Express Tribune that a notification, legally required to implement the Fata reforms is being delayed on the advice of the security agencies.
“The reforms cannot be implemented in Fata as long as fighting against terrorists continues in the tribal regions and neighbouring Afghanistan,” sources quoted the security forces as advising the political leadership.
The proposed reforms envisage lifting of restrictions on political activities, curtailing the arbitrary powers of bureaucrats to arrest and detain people, excluding women and minors from collective responsibility law, establishing an appellate tribunal, and providing audits of funds received and disbursed by the auditor-general.
“Despite the announcement of the reforms package, the president has not issued a notification for their implementation thus far. The reason being opposition from the establishment,” sources told The Express Tribune.
“Interestingly, most parliamentarians from Fata are also opposed to these reforms,” sources added. “These tribal lawmakers are following the dictates of political agents, who fear the reforms would clip their arbitrary powers.”
An official accused the PPP leadership of delaying the reforms because he believed that had they been serious in introducing the reforms, they would have made it a part of the 18 Amendment.
A tribal parliamentarian told The Express Tribune that the reforms were being introduced at the behest of the United States which wanted to deprive Fata of political autonomy the region has been enjoying since the creation of Pakistan.
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Washington based organisation set up by the United States, has been actively involved to evolve a political consensus on the reforms.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2011.
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