Dimensions of FATA-KP Merger

By Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain on May 31, this year, gave his assent to the recently-passed 31st Constitution Amendment Bill, paving the way for the much-delayed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

With a clear majority, the bill was already approved by both houses of Parliament as well as the KP Assembly.

After signing the act, President Mamnoon Hussain felicitated the people of FATA and said that tribal people would now enjoy the same constitutional rights as being enjoyed by other citizens of the country.

He expressed the hope that after the merger, FATA would enter an era of development and prosperity. The president also expressed the hope that the move would bring greater stability to the region.

Now, the act will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six frontier regions, to the mainstream of the KP.

However, the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was welcomed by the tribal people. Various dimensions of the merger need attention.

One of the dimensions is that the tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly and the National Assembly through this amendment. Interestingly, there was insignificant opposition to the merger on the part of Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam (JUI-F) and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

The proceedings for the merger have witnessed intense activities in shape of meetings, debate etc. High-powered National Implementation Committee (NIC) on FATA Reforms had earlier endorsed the merger of tribal regions with northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in December, last year in a meeting attended by the prime minister, chief of army staff, and others, including chief minister of the KP and Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on FATA Reforms Sartaj Aziz. Later, in May 2018, National Security Committee (NSC) in its 23rd meeting discussed and endorsed the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), while noting the regional and global security situation.

The credit for making the merger a reality has been attributed to Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who continued to push the political leadership for requisite activism on the issue. The role of opposition parties also remained positive and appreciable.

The merger of FATA/PATA with the KP province has been a long awaited move, as there has been too much suffering in the tribal areas. FATA was administered through Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), and political agent acted as a justice along with other executive tasks. FCR was a set of laws under which joint territorial duties and penalties were imposed. Since America’s attack on Afghanistan, FATA arose as a zone of trouble and proxy warfare. It also became security risk for the region and put Pakistan into many hardships.

In fact, FCR which was officially enacted in 1901 has its origins in laws which were enacted by the British colonialists in the Pashtun-inhabited tribal areas in the Northwest of British India. They were specifically devised to counter the opposition of the Pashtuns to British rule. The main objective of the FCR was to protect the interests of the British Empire. More than a century later, this law continues to be applied to FATA residents by the Government of Pakistan. Not only did the FCR deprive the people of FATA their fundamental rights, but also had taken away their basic legal rights like ‘Appeal, Wakeel and Daleel’.

So, it is positive dimension for the tribal people, as they have got rid of colonialism which continued after the partition of the Sub-continent. The tribal Sardars (Lords) who continued British practices were in favour of the division of FATA/PATA and KP. Now, this merger is likely to upset sub-nationalist tendencies, being exploited by Pakistan’s foreign enemies and some internal entities which were generating unrest in the tribal area on pretext of denial of basic rights.

Rapid mainstreaming with the end-goal of a relatively quick integration with KP is the right way ahead for FATA. After this merger, progress for these areas is only beginning. While the amendment abolishes the cruel “Frontier Crimes Resolution”, a makeshift replacement that is similar in nature will be in place for some time.

As FATA will be given a special fund of Rs1000 billion and receive Rs124 billion from the National Finance Commission according to the details of the bill–but more money may be required to rebuild the areas which have been devastated by years of war.

Exempting residents of the areas from taxation for five years is an important start, but more must be done to treat them as equal citizens in a country. FATA deserves all the constitutional protections.

It is notable that at present, FATA is most deprived and least-developed area in Pakistan. With lowest per capita income in the country, two third of its population simply lives below the poverty line. The literacy rate is as low as only 17% among males and only 3% among females. And, almost half population has no access to clean drinking water. So far, no substantial endeavor has been made to promote the socio-economic wellbeing of the people in FATA. The much-advertised plan of the US to establish certain Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ’s), as an instrument to contain extremism in FATA, has never materialized in reality. The standard of living in the provincial tribal areas in Pakistan is by no means better than that of FATA people.

Therefore, amalgamation of FATA/PATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will result into multiple benefits of the people by overcoming their multi-faceted problems which these people have been facing.
It is mentionable that since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, Pakistan has become center of the intelligence agencies such as American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which are in collusion with Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) to obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China and Pakistan, including Iran.

Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these secret agencies support the militants of Islamic State group (Also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) and Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the double game of the US-led countries. Besides, these terrorist groups are destabilizing Tibetan regions of China and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan through subversive activities.

After signing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has become special target of these foreign agencies which have not only restarted terror attacks in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan through ISIS and TTP etc., but have also kept alive anti-Pakistan propaganda campaign, including protests-demonstrations so as to create a rift among the ethnic groups of Pakistan in order to achieve their collective secret aims against the country.

Notably, CIA and RAW which are in collaboration with and NDS are clandestinely assisting the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) to manipulate the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), as these external entities are behind this Movement.

In this connection, in April 8, 2018, the protesters of the social movement of PTM, led by the young activist Manzoor Pashteen gathered in Pakistan’s capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawar for a mass demonstration to demand the protection of the rights of Pashtuns. Similar protest-demonstrations in solidarity with the PTM were held on the same day in Australia, Sweden, Germany, London, Washington and Afghanistan and along the Pak-Afghan border, which proved the foreign connections of the PTM movement.

The PTM first staged a 10-day sit-in protest in Islamabad in February, this year in response to the killing of 27-year old Naqeebullah Mehsud—what the Pakistani police pointed out as a raid on a terrorist hideout in eastern Karachi. The PTM halted its first Islamabad sit-in protest after the government provided written assurances that it would address the PTM complaints.

In fact, PTM had risen to importance, after it held protests for the arrest of Karachi’s SSP Rao Anwar for the extrajudicial killing of Naqueebullah Mehsud. The incident was fully manipulated by the organization.

Speaking in the tone of external propagandists against Pakistan, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement is demanding an end to human rights violations by authorities in the country’s tribal regions, removal of military checkpoints in the tribal areas and to form a judicial commission to investigate alleged extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of the Pashtuns in Pashtun-dominated regions of Pakistan.

On the other side, Pakistan’s government rejected false allegations that security forces or its intelligence agencies are responsible for enforced disappearances. Authorities said that military checkpoints are necessary in the tribal areas so as to combat extremist militants, including Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters.

As regards the case of missing persons of the Pashtuns, they were killed in various terror attacks, arranged by the militant groups like ISIS, TTP and their linked groups, while many Pustuns, without informing their families, also went to Afghanistan to wage Jihad against the occupying forces of NATO. They are, in fact, disappeared persons.

In reaction to the protest-demonstrations of the PTM, on April 2, 2018, People in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) and FATA took out rallies against PTM. The rallies were organised by a newly formed Pakistan Zindabad Movement, across the FATA and KPK. Anti-PTM rallies were held in Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram agencies, including the KPK towns of Kohat, Shabqadar and Charsadda.

In their speeches, people from different walks of lives praised the sacrifices rendered by the Pak Army and the other security forces in maintaining peace in FATA and the KPK. Protestors termed PTM anti-state and anti-forces.

They also called PTM an agent of RAW and NDS with a mission to defame the Pakistani security forces. The organizers of the rallies warned that if PTM did not let up their foreign agenda the Pashtun people will come after them.

In these terms, it is the most important dimension of the FATA-KP merger that now, tribal people will also castigate external plot against Pakistan in shape of the PTM.

Nevertheless, after the merger of FATA/PATA and with the KPK, the primary focus of the government must be development and reforms in tribal areas—improving the state of education, generating employment through extensive economic activity, and adequately maintaining the law and order. Particularly, education can help tribesmen assimilate and integrate with rest of Pakistanis after shedding their traditional mindset. Moreover, central point should be on the specialized industrialization to generate economic activities in these regions. Black economy should not be allowed to flourish in FATA. Pakistan Army has cleared FATA of militants and extremists after successful conducting military operations there. Now, the civilian law enforcement agencies should take a hold of the FATA to maintain peace and order in these areas.

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