Reforms in Fata

Published: April 30, 2011
The writer, a native of South Waziristan, has a master’s degree in conflict resolution from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California and blogs at

The writer, a native of South Waziristan, has a master’s degree in conflict resolution from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California and blogs at

President Asif Ali Zardari recently said that a package of reforms for Fata would be implemented soon. These consist of political, administrative and judicial changes and were originally announced in April 2009, but have yet to be implemented. The proposed reforms are inadequate because the core issue of Fata’s political status has yet to be addressed. Article 247(6) of Pakistan’s Constitution gives the president powers to declare all, or part of Fata a non-tribal area. However, in order to extend conventional governance into Fata, an administrative infrastructure will need to be established first, such as courts, police stations etc. This will take time, but the decision to develop the infrastructure should be an outcome of a Loi jirga. This entire process cannot be imposed on the people from external elements whom they do not recognise; it must be their own decision.

The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) needs to be abolished eventually but should not be rushed since the whole phasing out process needs to be gradual. Realistically speaking, it may take a few years. A sudden change in the governing system of Fata would not be welcome — in Swat, it was abolished overnight and this was followed by complete anarchy. In order to avoid a similar mistake in Fata, a step-by-step approach is necessary to ensure that the society and the government have the ability to adjust to each step.

The harsh terrain and the population straddling the porous border with Afghanistan will require immense resources to establish an effective administrative and law enforcement system in Fata. In his 2010 paper, the previous governor of Khyber-Pakthunkhwa (KP), Owais Ahmed Ghani, stated that these resources may not be available for some time. He wrote that it is important to sustain the tribes in the short term through restoration of the traditional role of the political agent by strengthening their power and authority in their respective agency. He also emphasised the importance of reviving the malik system so that they can develop the tribes’ capacity to deliver collective and territorial responsibility.

Fata and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) have no constitutional status, being tribal and self-governing through the FCR. To bring these areas under the constitution and at par with other regions, they shall have to be either absorbed into the adjacent province, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, or become a new province altogether. However, this process can only be undertaken successfully if the people of the tribal areas are on board.

Historically, the British had suggested merging Fata into the settled parts of the NWFP, now known as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. However, they did not implement this policy because they knew Fata’s population would have — violently perhaps — resisted any such move. Fata cannot be merged into KP because the social set-up of the people of Fata is considerably different from that of those in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, integration between the two would be difficult and a civil war might break out. Integration will lead to a dismal allocation of funds for development in Fata because of the relatively weak financial position of KP.

Interviews conducted by non-profits such as the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow, revealed that 70 per cent of Fata residents said Fata should become a separate province of Pakistan. However, if Fata is given a separate provincial status, then southern Punjab, Hazara and parts of Balochistan will likely demand a similar status as well.

The situation in Pakistan must be considered as an opportunity for change in Fata. The military advances in Fata have established the government’s writ in places that had been lost to the Taliban and the group’s fighting ability has been somewhat dented. Hence, the government needs to step in and take advantage of this opening. The root causes of militancy need to be addressed by implementing reforms in basic governance structures to combat poverty and lack of education. Fata should not be allowed to return to pre-militancy status. Instead, a higher state presence in the tribal areas must be the end goal. It is time that the inhabitants of Fata are granted equal status as Pakistani citizens.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Maulana Diesel
    Apr 30, 2011 - 7:43AM

    I don’t necessarily agree with your point that if you merge FATA with KP that there would be a violent reaction. You have to understand many people from FATA already are residing in KP, specifically the areas of Peshawar, Bannu and DIK. They speak the same language, although the dialects change from one end of FATA to the other but so does in KP. Furthermore, the Taliban and Alqaeda in FATA have already dismantled the Malik system (by killing all the Maliks) so there is not chance or point of going back to that. The best solution would be for Zardari to announce that in 10-15 years FATA will become a part of KP and in the meantime all efforts will be taken to get the reach of the state to at least the same level as it is in KP. I would also suggest getting rid of the FCR right away because it is not as if the government has any writ left in FATA (only the Taliban and Alqaeda are controlling FATA).Recommend

  • Topak Khan
    Apr 30, 2011 - 9:20AM

    I like the Islamabad based aatives of FATA , they are the people who have first hand (distant) experience of everyday life of the regionRecommend

  • Topak Khan
    Apr 30, 2011 - 9:21AM

    I like the Islamabad based natives of FATA , they are the people who have first hand (distant) experience of everyday life of the region

  • faraz
    Apr 30, 2011 - 10:43AM

    But FATA reforms would make it difficult for the military establishment to indoctrinate and train its ‘stratetic assets’. A wild wild west is essential to implement such crude and inhuman ideas. Recommend

  • Tariq
    Apr 30, 2011 - 1:15PM

    First of all Taliban and Alqaeda do not have control of FATA. Go to Swat and understand the situation. Chitral is totally at peace. Dir has arrived at troubled stability, Bajaur has had no incident, Mohmand is addressing a problem that is emanating form across the border, Khyber has some infighting but Mangal Bagh is on the run and probably in Afghanistan; in S Waziristan the IDPs are returning, in Aurakzai they already have. The Indus Highway is open and so is Darra. The international airport at Peshawar is functional and all the PAs are in the agencies. Except for N Waziristan where operations or military initiative has yet to take off things are progressing. So what’s with the gloom and doom?? About the FCR, explain what happened in Swat when the State was abrogated and you might find the answer to your critique.Recommend

  • saleem
    Apr 30, 2011 - 2:17PM

    @author: I agree with the general message of the author though disagree with the specifics. I agree that FATA should be given the equal citizen status as of other Pakistanis. Regarding FATA joining KPK or independent province, let me add that individual tribal areas are not so accessible to each other as it is accessible to the mainland KPK. For example, for the people of Khyber Agency, Peshawar is more accessible than any other tribal area. Same is the case with Darra Adam kheil and FR Kohat. Similarly people of both Waziristan can access DIKHAN, Tank and Banuu more easily than they access each other. There are no roads connecting the tribal areas with each other. Similarly as one of the commenter said earlier, people of FATA are residing in a very large number in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa provinces. They have businesses there and they are studying there as well.

    What the government need to do is to immediately abolish FCR, introduce political parties act, remove the political agent, introduce Judiciary and Police there, and merge FATA into KPK province. Recommend

  • Great Skardu
    Apr 30, 2011 - 3:01PM

    @Author: i totally agree that the inhabitant of tribal areas must have the equal rights and equal opportunities which have other province citizen. and the FCR (Black Law) should be desolve much soone then it could be possible to be come at equalent with other ctitizens. in GB there were also FCR and we were in the same position. After the visit of Great ZA Bhutto he demolish the FCR and now we are in peace and having some rights and as well as good life. we dont hve any “strategical assets ” due the Pakistani Law and we dont seen any Taliban too due to the effective course of law. so basis think is to become equalnce and then right can be automaticalyy reached. so first of all you peoples should demoslish the balk law (FCR) and then you will get everything slowly ang gratualyy…!!1Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Apr 30, 2011 - 5:43PM

    @Tariq…Swat, Chitral and Dir are not part of FATA! You forgot to mention Kurram Agency? Who is going to remove the heavy weapons in Khyber agency (other than F16’s and cobra helicopters) these Taliban have same weapons as the army. I can guarantee that if Pakistan takes full control of FATA and in fact makes it part of KP the drone attacks will stop.

    @Topak Khan….why the sarcasm against Islamabad based natives? Are you trying to tell me that unless you are in FATA you cannot analyse the situation there?

    I would like to commend the author for writing about FATA. I wish more people can write about the situation in FATA so that the world understand the hardships faced by average people.Recommend

  • Mehmood Qureshi
    Apr 30, 2011 - 11:12PM

    Native of Waziristan. Odd. How many “natives” make it to Monterey, CA? She is obviously the product of a privileged, elite Pakistani background. Let’s not use “nativity” to claim legitimacy for being an expert on FATA.

    The arguments made here are classic “bureaucratic”/colonial ones: do nothing right now or you will disturb the status quo. The british did not integrate FATA into settled areas because of a violent reaction. Come on. The colonial wisdom in dealing with the tribal savages must be upheld, right. Recommend

  • Mehmood Qureshi
    Apr 30, 2011 - 11:14PM

    civi war might break out. What nonsense. Recommend

  • wadan pashtoon
    May 1, 2011 - 1:02AM

    only googling is not the best way to suggesst changes regarding FATA status .i am really surprised about the knowledge of writter as she forgot that right know about 1.5 Million tribal people living in khyber pukhtoonkhwa and we have not seen any civil war.the reason is coz they are just different only administratively other wise they are same in terms of language, culture,collective pscycy,geographically and relogiouslly. even Pashtoons living in pakistan has no problem with Afghans having same socio-cultrual bond and links.more than 3 million Afghans came to khyber pukhtoonkhwa and no civil war erupted.the writter is quotting Ex;Governer Owais Ghani but she does not know he was almost a lay man and was just proceeding the policy of military establishment.military establishment in pakistan is just using the tribal areas as strategic space and Global terrorist base,so that why wants status quo in tribal area and is not ready to implement modren civillised reforms.I have not seen any logical argument in the artical as its just promoting security establishment view regarding tribal areas either she does not know much about tribal areas or intentionally misleading the people to serve security establishment cause.Recommend

  • takhalus
    May 1, 2011 - 3:19AM

    It is a bit over the top to say that a merger would cause conflict as long as ssufficient safeguards were put in place it shouldnt be a problem see: Torghar as an exampleRecommend

  • Tariq
    May 1, 2011 - 9:45AM

    Hey Diesel, I am very aware of what Chitral and Dir are; they are ‘PATA’ where the constitution allows them the same status as in FATA except that they come under the Governor’s rule as opposed to presidential rule as in FATA. However, the Governor remains the agent of the president even in FATA and as such it is more a question of semantics. Secondly, the question about Swat, please understand what the Malakand Agency is and large parts of Swat fall into it. The Agency is the biggest aberration to governance; i.e. there is a DCO when there should be a PA, there is police when there should be Levys, there is a jail when there is no court and this is an example of why a society could be hijacked when a government remained confused. (After all are we suggesting that it is OK to have Chitral in the Malakand Agency when it does not have a road connection in winter, it has a separate language and almost a different ideology). About Kurram, I did forget to mention it but it is primarily because it has remained a sectarian issue more than a militant one. That does not mean it does not give space to militancy to some extent but the resolution lies within and not in FCR changes. But what people are not really understanding is that nobody has suggested that the FCR should be kept in place, all that is being suggested is that do not do any knee-jerk changes, such as in the past; they have never succeeded. I too come form the tribal belt and I can assure you the FCR was not the reason for the conflict nor was it a popular demand for having it removed or replaced immediately. This has been the demand of the MNAs that are living in Islamabad representing FATA. Most have not stayed in their agencies and I know quite a few who are only available to the government to boost up votes in the parliament. If this is to be the representation and the consequences of removal of the FCR, THEN PLEASE LEAVE US ALONE.I agree if the Army takes control of the N Waziristan areas the drones will stop. After all the conflict Zone is 45000 Sq Kms but the Drones are falling in N Waziristan alone which is only 15000 Sq Kms or so. It vindicates my point, most of the other areas are under reasonable control but here we are being tentative. The heavy weapon issue I have not understood, the Taliban have Rocket Launchers, 12.7 HMGs at best, this does not match the Army’s capacity even by a fraction. But Diesel, you seem to know what you are talking about and I would like to continue are discussion on the FCR, we may both learn something. About someone getting annoyed with the author’s qualifications, strange; he would rather have someone from a Madrassah giving him direction. What’s with you friend, why run down education, how do you know that Monterey disqualifies you from returning to your people, living and travelling in your area and working with society from within; do you know this already or are you willing to pass judgement on an assumption that the author is Islamabad based? Cheers!!!! Recommend

  • Maria
    May 1, 2011 - 9:51AM

    @Mehmood Qureshi: That’s pretty judgemental. Not only are there natives of FATA along the California Coast but throughout the world. It never ceases to amaze me when I come across another Pakistani from a remote location in Pakistan in the most exotic of locals. Only last month I came across a female surgeon from Bannu but originally from the Tribal Belt practicing outside Waterloo. The point being that our Pakistani sisters and brothers of all backgrounds have excelled in many fields. We simply need to improve the educational opportunities for all Pakistanis so that they may pursue their dreams. Incidentally I too went to University in Peshawar based on an underserved area quota before going for higher studies abroad.While I agree with the need to abolish the FCR and the need to introduce administrative, political and judicial changes to merge FATA with mainstream Pakistan, I disagree that FATA should be a separate province. For all intents and purposes, most educated and upwardly mobile people from FATA are already integrated with KPK with which the region is contiguous. Many have a home in KPK along with their ancestral home in FATA. People in fact see themselves as an extension of KPK. It only makes sense to further integrate FATA into KPK.Recommend

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