Dr Muhammad Khan
After seventy years of independence, finally Parliament of Pakistan passed 31st Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan for merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Though very late, but, it is a historic moment not only for the people of FATA but for entire Pakistani nation that, entire Pakistan is under the Constitution of Pakistan. This was very unfortunate that for 70 years of post-independence history, the successive governments in Pakistan failed do away with the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), a draconian British law, imposed over the FATA in 1901. FCR was specifically devised to counter the opposition of the FATA Pashtuns to British rule in India. The law was all aimed to protect the interests of the British Empire.
What all this Law, the FCR, where, the locals of the area were ‘deprived of appeal, wakeel and daleel (respectively, the right to appeal detention, the right to legal representation, and the right to present reasoned evidence). Then, it had the curse of collective punishment clause (No. 21), which is imposed on anyone in the tribal areas for a crime committed by him or her relative, spouse, or even any other person from the same tribe and area, a cause contradicting the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)-1948 and International Law. This single man rule (FCR) had given unbridled judicial and executive powers to the political agent todo anything in the area without any accountability or check. More so, the political agent was not bound to accept any Jirga recommendations about conviction or acquittal of a person. FCR also permits the seizure and confiscation of property and arrest and detention of an individual without due process. Furthermore, if an offence is committed by one person, his or her whole family/tribe is made responsible for the act.
The merger would undo all these ills and evils of the FCR and allow the 5 million people of FATA to have the basic human rights and all other rights, enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and international covenants. Very surprising that, the so-called Pashtun leader, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of PKMAP and the so-called champion of Islam, Moulana Fazul ur Rehman of JUI(F) have been opposing this merger and even walked out of both houses of Parliament during the passage of this merger, 31st Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan. This speaks of their myopic mind-sets towards the betterment of the FATA. Indeed, both leaders have their bigotry and petty interests. One, the Achakzai is following the Kabul dictation.
Ackakzai indeed, warned the Government in National Assembly that, merger would provoke the Kabul. The same happened, immediately after the passage of bill from National Assembly; Afghan Government issued statements against the merger. A statement from Kabul Palace said, “Pakistan’s decision is against the 1921 agreement between the British India and Afghanistan.” There is a total similarity in the statements of Achakzai and Afghan Government. The Kabul Administration’s statement is indeed amounting to litter the entire FATA and Pashtun population. They (Kabul and Achakzai) want that, people of FATA and larger Pashtun belt should be their dependents, while remaining unaware of their basis rights. The avaricious and selfish Mullah, Fazul ur Rehman is fearing that, FATA people will be out of his malevolent grip. An aware and educated society of FATA will not take dictate from this political Mullah, who misuses Islam for his reprehensible political designs.
Indeed, the merger of FATA in to KP is a decision, taken by Pakistani parliament as per the wishes of FATA masses, which have rejected the FCR long ago. The Foreign Office of Pakistan has also clarified that, “Our parliament’s decision reflects the will of the people of Pakistan. The principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the conduct of bilateral relations need be scrupulously adhered to by Afghanistan.” Indeed, President Ashraf Ghani and his aids need to put its own house in order, where over 60% area is not under the control of Kabul administration.
Before taking a decision for the merger of FATA with KP, in November 2015, the Government of Pakistan constituted a high level committee under the former Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Mr Sartaj Aziz. This committee prepared a reform package for the mainstreaming of the FATA in August 2016. The salient of the reform package was that, FATA will be gradually integrated into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The proposals of the reform package were critically debated by the Parliament. As per the reforms, proposed, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) will be repealed and in lieu of this there would be a system of Jirga and Rewaj and this would be under Tribal Areas Rewaj Act, which will be implemented in phases. At that time the merger was delayed owing to opposition of Moulana Fazulur Rehaman and Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the coalition partners of PML(N).
The FATA merger in to KP is a major breakthrough in the history of Pakistan. These people were ignored by successive governments of Pakistan, thus remained under developed and educationally backward. The mainstreaming of the FATA will have long term impacts on the living conditions of its people, giving them their basic constitutional rights. In the wordings of Prime Minister, Abbasi, “Today this house has approved a historic bill, which will have very positive effects for Pakistan. We need to provide [FATA residents] with all those facilities which are available to the people in the rest of Pakistan.” The merger of FATA into KP is indeed, victory of all Pakistani masses. Let there be good governance, rule of law, peace and economic prosperity in Pakistan.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.