FATA reforms and NAP

Lt Gen Raza M Khan (R)

REFORMS in FATA to counter terrorism are part of the National Action Plan. A major recommendation of proposed reforms is to merge FATA with KP. While this merger appears logical, it has three glaring shortcomings. First; the Report does not claim if the merger will be a panacea for establishment of the writ of the government in FATA, even after the sanction of additional 20,000 posts in the Levies and the raising of new wings in the FC for border management. Second; the six-member Committee that compiled the Report does not include any one from FATA, though FATA parliamentarians and elders were consulted. Three; the Report acknowledges that a majority of FATA elders opposed the merger and that the FATA parliamentarians did not choose any of the three options under consideration. The following rendition is meant to highlight these issues.
The British had divided FATA into two distinct zones. 27 percent of the area was designated the ‘illaqa e sarkar’ (protected/ government territory) and the rest as ‘illaqa e ghair’ (non protected area). The latter area was not accessible by land routes, was too difficult to control and was located mostly at the border with Afghanistan. Due to the absence of the writ of the state and Afghanistan’s refusal to recognize the Pak-Afghan border, this area sheltered many drug smugglers, fugitives, mercenaries, kidnapers and proxy warriors. As a consequence of the events of 9/11, followed by the US invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban, many Afghan Taliban took refuge in FATA, particularly the ‘illaqa e ghair’ ,forcing tribal Maliks and politicians to leave FATA, out of fear or inconvenience. Gradually, the clergy became the de facto rulers, as second tier leaders in FATA were not effective enough, willing or capable to act as a substitute for the Maliks/politicians.
The new legislation about countering terrorism and ‘defence of Pakistan’ is not applicable to FATA. This is due to FATA’s current constitutional, political and administrative status. Due to the rugged nature of the terrain, and lack of infrastructure, military operations against terrorists and miscreants are not easy. Miscreants that are pushed out from one agency usually slip laterally /sideways into the adjacent tribal areas, or into the border areas in Afghanistan, as enough forces are never available for total encirclement. Half-hearted efforts to revise the current judicial arrangement called the FCR, that is aimed at crime control, replacing it with the policing arrangement in the settled areas or granting greater liberties to the people of FATA, as suggested in the Report will not change anything. The prevailing jirga (council of elders) system is not effective as it is simultaneously responsible to act as legislative body, a law enforcing apparatus and a court of justice.
Besides, the jirga is able to redress local grievances only in the areas declared ‘protected’ by the PA. Elders/Maliks have little capacity/influence to interfere in the inaccessible areas or the ‘ ilaqa e ghair’, which are dens of major unlawful activities. The PA exercises control in the ‘protected areas” through a small force called the levies and the khassadars. This force comprises poorly trained, ill equipped and low paid locals, whose first loyalty is to their tribe and who are incapable of establishing the writ of the PA through the FCR, in the inaccessible areas, where the terrorists and miscreants are armed with heavy and sophisticated weapons. This is the reason why any revision in the FCR may be meaningless.
The government’s efforts to grant more political rights to the people of FATA may not bring any change either, as most politicians and Maliks from FATA have moved out to the settled areas in KP and Islamabad. FATA is too diverse and scattered to be governed, as a separate province and the plight , particularly maintenance of the law and order , of the provincially administered tribal areas or PATA, like Malakand and Buner under the KP and Dera Bugti under Balochistan, indicate that amalgamation of FATA with KP may not be an answer to the core problem of defeating terrorists. While more FATA elites will get seats in the assembly after the merger, one wonders if this can change the fate of ordinary tribal people. Irrespective of the political factors, FATA must have its own, strong, well-equipped law enforcing force to ensure that militants that may have escaped military action do not return or to regroup elsewhere.
The primary goal of the reforms should be to firmly establish the writ of the government in FATA, as alluded to in the NAP. To mainstream FATA, the government must begin an experimental project in one or two tribal agencies in which elected councils at the sub-agency level are delegated limited powers, till the phasing out of the Maliki system. Thereafter, it must set up a hybrid of the older system of administration and governance and new elements, redefine the role of the PAs to transform them into district administrators along the line of officials inside the KP, over time. This will need assistance of not only the Armed Forces of Pakistan but also the direct involvement of all FATA parliamentarians, comprising 8 Senators and 11 Members of the National Assembly. Some of these parliamentarians and tribal elders must be actively involved in the process of implementation and even course correction of the approved Reforms process.
Without this integration, the Reforms will not be owned by the people of FATA. It is vital that the process is taken forward in a manner that it inspires not only the people of FATA but the entire population to support the reform. Assisted by the country’s ‘think tanks’, an urgent debate in Parliament and the media on the pros and cons of the reforms for the future administration and control of FATA, followed by the necessary constitutional amendments and appointment of the right people to implement the change, is a vital national security dictate.
— The writer is former president of National Defence University, Islamabad.

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