IN THE NEWS: FATA AS A SPECIAL ENTITY (MARCH 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Fata as a special entity
SOURCE: The Nation
Sunday, March 11, 2018
By AHMAD SALEEM

*People of Fata deserve better than what they have been receiving at the hands of oppressive and inhumane colonial regulations

It has been three years since the establishment of Fata Reforms Committee that the fate of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) and its people dwindles in the echelons of power at the capitol.

The current political climate indicates a strong surge towards the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, there are three other options available at the Prime Minister’s desk. The one that has been given the least amount of consideration, besides the one of maintaining the status quo, has to be the establishment of a Fata Council on the footprints of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) Council.

AJK and GB being the only two self-governing special territories of the state of Pakistan in lieu of Article 257 of the Constitution, flaunt impressive set of socio-economic indicators than rest of the mainland.

With literacy rates ranging as high as 76.60% for AJK in 2017 and 65.60% for GB as early as 2014, compared to 58% total literacy rate of Pakistan in the year 2015-16. And present credentials of a per capita Purchasing Power Parity GDP of $2,529 for AJK and $3,662 for GB compared to $1,212 of Fata . This along with somewhat similar statistics of population being 4.04 million for AJK compared to 4.8 million people living in Fata , envisages the kind of future people of Fata behold for themselves.

It can be said without a shadow of a doubt that the state has finally realised and accepted that the current condition of Fata under Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and its present status cannot yield prosperity and wellbeing for its people. This realisation has for the first time since independence led to a hope that the Article 247 (6) of the constitution will be invoked and Article 1 (2) (c) be amended for the betterment of the tribal people. The strategy after invoking this article, however, in case of a special status for Fata would require establishment of a Legislative Assembly in Fata and a separate council similar in structure to the GB council; headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan as chairman, presided by the Governor of Fata as its vice-chairman, membered by the relevant federal ministers and elected representatives of the people of Fata.

This would mean an overhaul of the whole administrative machinery working in Fata under the FCR , which has plagued the whole system of governance in the region. Such an endeavour would lead to the assistant political agents and political agents being replaced with assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners respectively, not only in terms of their description but also by their orientation with the abolishment of FCR .

The government formed under the governor and the chief minister would be supplemented by their own high court and session courts which would extend their jurisdiction on the people of Fata in accordance with their wishes, which maybe to retain Riwaj or Jirga system.

The complete revamp of the system and the allocation of new officers working under the Chief Secretary of Fata, would immensely contribute in day to day working of a well-oiled state machinery as well as directing the development and reconstruction efforts on ground. Moreover, this will also help maintain checks and balances by the extension of National Accountability Bureau’s writ in that area. Such a case would save the overburdening of already preoccupied government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that is facing challenges of IDPs, terrorism and lack of officers that may arise in case of a merger.

Considering the option of a special status for Fata can supplement the dream of this socio-economic progress by subscribing to the narrative of a modern day trust territory, where serious efforts could be made on priority basis to increase the living standards and ways of income generation for the local population. This could be ensured by allocating special resources under not only a 10-year developmental plan as envisaged by the Fata Reforms Committee, but also by allocating no less than a 5% share of the divisible pool of 9th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.

Another precarious side to this whole situation is the military or the security side to the future status of Fata . Being a major stakeholder in the area especially after the various operations that were conducted there, it would be imperative to have a significant military presence in the Fata region to ensure effective border management, enhance the capability of Frontier Constabulary and the Levies by giving them regular training and also to ensure availability for aid of civil administration in times of dire need.

Nevertheless, no matter how unlikely this proposal may seem to the decision makers at the realm of power, it should never be brushed aside without serious forethought and consideration. For the people of Fata deserve better than what they have been receiving at the hands of oppressive and inhumane colonial regulations. To ensure that we must never go back towards these dungeons of criminal justice practices, we must not forget the fate of such regulations by merely attributing it to the Roman notion of “damnatio memoriae” — The condemnation of memory.

 

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