By Brig Said Nazir Mohmand retd
The political parties’ stalwarts’ stage managed a tribal grand jirga in Islamabad on 22nd of Nov to address the handpicked politically affiliated tribal chieftains and redress the issue of internally displaced persons. A pre-prepared resolution was adopted and passed asking the govt to bring a quick and logical end to the ongoing military operation in FATA. The Jirga asked for the immediate revocation of the, “Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation” and introduction of laws to strengthen the institution of Jirga. They demanded a comprehensive package for the restoration of damaged infrastructure and compensation for the losses they have suffer in men and material. Mass media was encouraged to project the issues of IDPs who have rendered great sacrifices. They asked the govt to facilitate the safe return of the IDPs to their native towns/villages and ensure better health and education facilities. The high mark of the whole proceeding was the demand for empowering the people of Fata and making them stakeholders in the decision making process.
The political parties’ leaders highlighted the sacrifices rendered by the tribal people and showed solidarity with their just demands besides shedding tears on their plight and sufferings. The tribal elders were grateful for the support and applauded the speakers expressing solidarity with the cause of tribal people.
It will be of use to dispassionately analyze the grand gathering and its proceedings. Notwithstanding the intentions which are best known to Allah alone, there appears to be an apparent dichotomy and a visible disconnect between the words and deeds.
Fata is in the state of flux for more than a decade and the issue of IDPs, the cycle and recycle of death and destruction, the ever persisting political and economic deprivation, the constitutional discrimination and dilapidated infrastructure, corrupt administration, collapse of traditional institutions; besides pathetic heath and education facilities are not only a common knowledge but a well known and visible ground reality. The political leaders who addressed the grand jirga are no aliens but hails from the same political parties who subscribed to the 1973, constitution; which made FATA the exclusive domain of the president, administered through governor KPK and run via Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) a draconian law and legacy of the British Raj. The story of the rhetoric, empty words, false promises, double standards and callousness does not end on the unfair note on Fata. The subsequent twenty amendments and specially the last three passed by the same worthy political parties’ leaders who spoke on the occasion have brought no promise or hope to the people of Fata. Article 101 was added to disqualify the inhabitants of Fata from becoming the governor of KPK who is the defacto administrator of FATA.
Though, the checkered political history of Pakistan is full of gaps, holes and punctuated with lot of ifs and buts, but yet the fact remains bare and clear that these parties were one way or the other aligned with the Musharraf,s govt who unleashed the scorch earth policy on FATA. They are the ones; who have been and are still sharing the power corridors and policy parameters with the ruling class. They lead the same political parties’ whose representatives have drafted and crafted a ten point reforms package for Fata which is loudly proclaimed in every forum to gain political mileage but sadly not adopted. These eleven parties can bring about a constitutional amendment on the basis of their present day count in both the legislative bodies. The irony is that they have got the strength and the requisite heads count to introduce political, constitutional and socio-economic reforms in the constitution regarding FATA, but ironically, the will is missing at their part willingly.
It is the same political elite who abandoned the IDPs to their ill fate once in power and banned the entry of the war affected to their so –called province- based power- basins on the plea of being suspected militants. They always preferred the use of force over the course of dialogue and made Fata the whipping boy of the federation. They polluted FATA with the curse of massive corruption by trading the posting of inapt political administrators and boosting the culture of horse trading amongst the MNAs and senators hailing from FATA.
Irrespective of the motive or the driving force behind this grand gathering at the Convention Center, the voice of FATA has been given the echo effect resonating in the power corridors. The proceedings of the Jirga will be mere formalities, unless reinforced by sincere efforts and practical steps taken by the party’s leaders to bring about tangible changes in the policy parameters. They have to undo the discrimination, dichotomies and duality in the past approach towards FATA. The negative mind-set and the misperception must be given a positive turn and reorientation.
There could be two ways to mainstream FATA and empower its people. The short term approach is via the president of Pakistan and the long term is through the constitutional amendment by the parliament. The immediate and foremost priority be given to the appointment of an independent Chief Administrator for Fata (CAF), thereby delinking FATA from the governor of KPK. The CAF shall then nominate a Fata council representing all seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions. In orders to ensure the empowerment of the people of FATA; the CAF and Fata council members be Fata domiciled and the ones having expertise in different fields of governance and administration. The Fata Council shall be tasked to prepare a comprehensive and wide ranging reforms package for the people of FATA within one year. The reforms package shall then be presented to the President of Pakistan for promulgation through a regulation, for Fata being his exclusive zone. Once the reforms get roots and its trickledown effects touch the grassroots of FATA dwellers, then a constitutionally viable referendum be held to decide about the future status of FATA, as a separate province, merger with KPK or status-quo.
The Long term approach could be, the passage of the reforms package through both the legislative houses. This approach would entail constitutional amendments and political maneuvering which is difficult for the people of Fata to harness and manage unless they get the full backing of all these political parties above their political rivalries and affiliations. The reforms package during this course of action be also prepared by or with the consent of the tribal people, otherwise any decision imposed from outside will be counterproductive.
The commonalities and ridding factors deduced from both the courses are, A, the main purpose of the reforms be mainstreaming of FATA and empowering the people of the area. B, the package shall include a non lapsable fund to rebuild the damaged infrastructure and rehabilitate the IDPs and violence affected people.C, the promulgation of a potent local body govt; via presidential regulation, in a way to make the people of FATA stakeholders in the affairs of govt. D, shaping of the environments for peaceful transition of Fata from militancy to normalcy.
It is almost a month since the grand jirga has adopted resolution for further pursuance but the political parties leaders including MQM are busy in setting scores with each other.The litmus test of their sincerity with the tribal people’s cause is their push, pressure and lobbying for making it a reality. They may now form a jirga and meet the president for the adoption of the short terms reform package in order to make a start on the practical plinth. Meanwhile, they can collectively lobby and harness the requisite strength to bring about a constitutional amendment regarding mainstreaming FATA and empowering its people. The ball is in the political parties’ court to play it or puncture it. Let the deeds speak louder than words in the decision making corridors. It is a long outstanding debt which the parties owe it to the people of Fata.
May 27, 2018 0
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily