By Brig Said Nazir Mohmand retd
It was none other than the father of the nation, Quaid e Azam who promised with the tribal elders while seeking their allegiance to Pakistan in Apr 1948, that “Pakistan has no desire to unduly interfere with your internal freedom. On the contrary; Pakistan wants to help you and make you, as far as it lies in our power, self-reliant and self-sufficient and help in your educational, social and economic uplift, and not be left as you are dependent on annual doles”.
Quaid’s promise was never fulfilled by any successive govt in any form or manifestation except for the hollow promises, hatch- poach spade work or the proverbial, too little too late, extension of political parties act, adult franchise and local govt system. The 1973, constitution has been amended for more than twenty times through addition, deletion and modification of its articles/clauses but none to the benefit of the people of FATA.
Frontier Crimes Regulation is their law, governor KP is their boss and the president of Pakistan is their god father. It is Eldorado for the establishment and whipping boy of the federation for the commission and omission of all the sins and ails that pollute and plague Pakistan.
It is interesting that all in the political power corridors are concerned about the future of FATA. . The political parties make a dash to get the support of FATA senators and MNAs in electing the president, prime minister and while passing the finance bill or bringing about a change in the law/constitution pertaining to Pakistan less FATA. They make a good use of them in the numbers game in return for the abuse in the monetary terms. This cycle and recycle is a permanent phenomenon of our political history.
The need for reforms and mainstreaming the people of FATA has got momentum and different reforms committees have done their home work and made their respective reforms packages public in the print and electronic media. It is interesting that all in the political power corridors are concerned about the future of FATA and have unanimously recognized the need for reforms.
The Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms has announced an 11-point agenda for reforms in FATA and demanded that, like people of other areas of the country, the people of FATA be given legal, political, democratic and constitutional rights. The Shaheed Bhutto Foundation has also proposed a reform package towards mainstreaming the tribal people into national life and ensuring their socio economic development. The FATA reforms committee constituted by the incumbent governor comprising mainly of the former civil servants, to study and propose reforms for mainstreaming the, Wild West as the Brits used to call it.
The fresh value added addition is that FATA parliamentarians have floated a bill in the parliament suggesting three options: one, to administer it as PATA (Provincially Administered Tribal Areas), two, to make it a separate province and thirdly to merge it with KP. The credit goes to the FATA parliamentary leader MNA Shahji Gul Afridi for getting the consensus (signatures) of MNAs and Senators from FATA on the proposed draft. He was also able to maneuver and get the support of political parties during the all parties’ conference called by Amir Jumat e Islami Sirajul Haq.
However, to the contrary the move has been challenged by Ex- MNA com Minister Mr Hamidullah Jan with the plea that the present parliamentarians have got no mandate to decide about the future of FATA; as this being the exclusive domain of the president. Both the camps are busy in gathering support and launching movements (tehrik) in support of their respective view points.
Though the proposed reforms bill regarding the status of FATA is a bold move but appears to be a tall task under the obtaining environments. There could be two aspects to this move, one, to prob and determine the fact that the parliament has the mandate to decide about the future status of FATA. Second reason could be, that the political parties specially the ones having stakes in the KP, have lured the FATA parliamentarian to float the bill and then hijack the move and capitalize on it in favour of merger with KP. This line of action and mood was clearly prevalent during the all parties’ conference on FATA. They want to extend their domain of power and add to the number game in the national assembly. The options of merger with KP and mere renaming it as PATA are sides of the same coin. If any of the these two options are adopted the visible implications will be , the change of boss i.e: form President to PM, form governor to CM of KP and change of guards from FC to police and judicial function from Jirga to the so-called Qazi courts. In nutshell the mainstream KP politicians will be the direct bosses of FATA and Thana, Kacheri culture will prevail. There will be a hay day for corrupt system of excise and taxation, sluggish legal system, manipulating /ambitious lawyers besides ingress of mafias and murder of quota system. The common tribal people will not only loose his custom and tradition but his honour at the cost of being a second grade dweller of KP.
The third option is to give FATA the status of a province, the fifth federating unit of Pakistan. The people of FATA not only desire but deserve it on many counts. This option is based on the geographical realities, common bondage and administrative configuration. However, the forces of opposition and the voices of dissent to this option are strong enough to discard it at the outset. The present federating units are opposed to the creation of new/more provinces as the number of provinces grows, their present sizes shrink. Though, the FATA case is entirely different on account of not being part of any province, but the grudge is against the lead and the trend. This course cannot get through the parliament but via the free will of the people of FATA expressed through a constitutionally viable referendum.
The viable and prudent way is to adopt a progressive, calibrated and measured reform package. The package shall entail constitutional, political, administrative, economic, social and above all security related reforms. To this end FATA be administratively detached from KP and separate administrator from proper FATA be appointed by the president and tasked to nominate 24 member FATA Council (3 from each agency and 3 from six frontier regions) to work out a comprehensive reform package within one year. The FATA council members shall be FATA domiciled and represents all shades of life and expertise in their respective fields. The rider clause of the terms of reference should be how to mainstream and empower the people of FATA.
Meanwhile the already extended local body act be made more comprehensive, potent, peoples friendly and effective rather than meek, mute and captive to the governor’s discretionary powers. The Fata Council shall hold the local body elections and empower the people and make them stakeholders in the decision making process. Once the people get adapted to the new system of local govt and share the powers with political administration and the unbridled powers of Political agent are diluted then shall the onus of decision regarding the status of FATA rest with the people of FATA, The enabling environment shaped through dilution of power shall empower the people of FATA to decide their fate by expressing their free will through a constitutionally viable referendum for either merging with KP, forming the fifth federating unit or bringing about fundamental changes in the present status.
It is a good sign that the FATA parliamentarians have adopted an assertive and proactive approach towards the rights of the people of FATA, but proper homework, broad based deliberation and thread bare analysis will make them seasoned to reach at a viable solution. It is time to decide about the fate of the shattered zone by making the people of those areas stakeholders. Any policy decision imposed from outside without the consent of the people will prove counterproductive. It will be playing with the fire and sowing the seeds of violent resistance, if they are subjected to the pollution of Thana and Kacheri culture. The change in delineation of 25 villages in Mohmand Agency is a case in point. The mindset in FATA is in the process of transition and transformation and if not regulated according to the changing times in a progressive way; will open the seams of the present system beyond repair.
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