Reforms Announced for FATA on Independence Day

Posted on August 13, 2009
Filed Under >Jauhar Ismail, Politics
Total Views: 43025

Jauhar Ismail

On the eve of Pakistan’s 63rd independence day, President Asif Ali Zardari announced major reforms in the political, administrative and judicial make up of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) – a combination of seven semi-autonomous tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan.

It should be noted that as per the constitution of Pakistan, FATA is under the direct control of the President of Pakistan who exercises his authority through a “Political Agent” for each of the seven agencies. For all intent and purpose, a political agent can be considered as a mini-viceroy who exercises vast powers over his agency and is not answerable to any judicial oversight. The writ of the Supreme court of Pakistan does not extend to FATA which is governed by the colonial era Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) that allows the political agent to imprison people without any trial for an indefinite period of time. Moreover the people of FATA are not allowed to enjoin the democratic process enjoyed by their fellow citizens as none of the Pakistani political parties are allowed to exist in FATA.

For more than a decade, FATA has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It has become a hot bed of terrorism and militants from all across the globe have used this as a sanctuary for carrying out their wicked acts but this news announced on Pakistan’s independence day is definitely positive. According to this Dawn news stroy, the key aspects of the reforms announced by the President are:

1. Extension of the Political Parties Order of 2002 to the tribal areas
2. Changes to the FCR to curtail the powers of arbitrary arrest and detention without the right to bail
3. Exclusion of women and children below 16 years of age under the Collective Responsibility Clause of the FCR
4. Setting up the Fata Tribunal with powers similar to those of the high courts
5. Audit of the funds received and disbursed by political agents by the Auditor General of Pakistan

Like anything else, the success and effectiveness of these reforms will largely depend on their implementation nevertheless on the face of it, this is definitely a move in the right direction. The militancy and terrorism in FATA can not be eradicated through the military means alone. Any lasting peace in this area will require a comprehensive set of political, judicial and economic reforms to accompany the military action.

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There is a general feeling that people of FATA have suffered enormously at the hand of Maliks (tribal leaders), political agents and terrorists both home grown and foreign born. They deserve better from the government of Pakistan and its instiututions. One can only hope that these reforms only constitute a starting point for a long journey towards integrating FATA into the Pakistani state.

Photo Credits: Title map is from wikipedia

10 responses to “Reforms Announced for FATA on Independence Day”

  1. Shakeel says:

    Ameer Aziz, you do make a valid point and nobody can disagree with it, but everything has a start.

    This is indeed the right move in the right direction. If implemented well, this will open up the door to make this area full part of the NWFP.

    I really hope, on this glorious day, that Pakistan Government and Pakistanis (we often criticize the Gov but much of the blame falls on us!) start working together for a better future.

    It is now or NEVER! Simple as that.

  2. awahid says:

    Happy Independence Day – Pakistan Zindabad

  3. Aamer Aziz says:

    It is absolutely incomprehensible how a state within a state can exist. Why should any citizen of Pakistan have different set of rules and laws. Yes it is good that finally some extension of writ of Pakistan government is going in those areas with the new law, but still it is far from ideal. Ideally there should NOT be a separate area called FATA. Either they become a full part of NWFP or be made an independent unit (province) with the same structure as the rest of the provinces of Pakistan.
    What needs to be done there is to open up the area to education, health, roads, telecommunication and develop it at par with the rest of the country. I am sure “friends of Pakistan” would be more than happy to dole out money for that purpose.

  4. Gardezi says:

    Very important steps and could have far reaching consequences. I hope they are fully implemented.

  5. Bangash says:

    The most critical component is missing from these reforms : An effective police force backed by a more heavily armed paramilitary force. FATA is a rough place where you kill or be killed, without strength the state can’t do anything.

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