Federally Administered Tribal Areas have been devoid of democratic entitlements and public services delivery for too long. This was the main focus of discussion among policy experts gathered at a roundtable at the Jinnah Institute on Monday titled “Mapping the Future of FATA: Reforms and Reconstruction” here on Monday.
Khalid Aziz, former Chief Secretary of KP and senior adviser to the FATA Reforms Committee, reflected on the history of FATA and noted that the areas were mostly left to ‘shared sovereignty’ during colonial times. When FATA became a federal responsibility, it was not provided resources, infrastructure or finances as a provincial right, he pointed out. He provided an update on the government’s reforms committee process and salient features of the approved recommendations, highlighting that FATA would require substantial funds from the federal divisible pool.
Lt Gen Talat Masood was of the view that some of the major weakness of tribal areas lay in poor standards of education, health and infrastructure.
People of FATA have been excluded from mainstream democracy and are not granted economic or security-related provisions. Discussions also highlighted large financial resources required for the development of FATA, he said. Saifullah Mehsud of the FATA Research Center said that the provincial governments must agree to grant a portion of their financial allocations to tribal areas, which though, would be a difficult task to achieve. Khalid Aziz specified that additionally, the National Financial Commission would have to grant at least 3% more to the provincial allocation of FATA in order to make up for historical neglect.
As FATA reforms continue to face resistance from political groups, some participants felt that the government had not included people from FATA in the committee or the provincial sub-committees.
The speakers were of the view that in order to ensure implementation of FATA reforms, it was necessary to ensure that the rights of the people of FATA are secured in any future merger.
Despite the establishment of a FATA Reform Committee, there is still no talk regarding the political inclusion of FATA in the 2018 election. Further, the government appointed Committee does not include any residents from tribal areas.