Amid mounting pressure to bring the federally administered tribal areas (Fata) into the mainstream, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif constituted a high-powered committee on Sunday to finalise reforms for the tribal areas.
According to a notification issued from the PM House, the prime minister has charged Sartaj Aziz, his adviser on foreign affairs, to lead the five-member committee to determine whether Fata should be merged into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as a provincially-administered tribal area (Pata) or made a separate province of the country.
Sunday’s move comes nearly a week after an all parties’ conference (APC) in Islamabad unanimously backed the proposed 22nd amendment. The amendment seeks to grant full citizenship rights to residents of Fata and extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to the tribal areas.
Other members of the committee include Minister for SAFRON Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch (secretary of the committee), K-P Governor Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi, PM’s Adviser on National Security Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua and the government’s top legal expert MNA Zahid Hamid.
A PM House official detailed that Aziz with evaluate Fata’s historical position and status while the recently appointed NSA Janjua will present the military’s point of view. Abbasi will be presenting the input of the Fata secretariat while Hamid will handle the constitutional elements.
The committee, which will start working immediately, will review drafts of reports of past commissions on the subject, including the Fata Reforms Commission (FRC). It will consult all stakeholders including lawmakers from the tribal areas, chiefs of various clans, youngsters and other influential individuals.
Last year in May, the K-P governor had set up the FRC to propose reforms within 10 months. The five-member FRC, comprising retried civil and military officers, had set aside recommendations of previous task forces and reforms commissions and proposed its own set of reforms. The FRC was also given 18 terms of reference and to develop detailed action plans for implementing strategic objectives of the reforms agenda in different sectors.
However, in April 2015, lawmakers from Fata and various political parties rejected the FRC’s recommendations.
According to the constitution, Fata is included in Pakistan (Article 1) but remains under the direct executive authority of the President (Articles 51, 59 and 247) and is regulated by the antiquated Frontier Crimes Regulation.
A ‘deal’ to secure votes
Sources in the PM House have suggested that the committee came about after a deal was reached between the ruling PML-N and lawmakers from the tribal areas. Parliamentarians from Fata had nominated GG Jamal as a candidate for the National Assembly speaker and as such, would be competing with PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq for the slot. However, the ruling party struck a deal to listen to the reservations of Fata lawmakers on the proposed reforms in exchange for withdrawing Jamal from the election.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2015.