24th May was a historic day for the people of FATA when NA passed much awaited bill of
FATA’s merger with KPK. The bill was also passed by the Senate and KPK assembly on 25th and 27th May respectively. The President finally signed the 31st constitutional amendment on 31 May making FATA a formal part of KPK. The merger bill has rid the people of FATA from a draconian law which was thrust upon entire Pashtun inhabited region by the British Empire in 1901.
The FCR was devised to counter Pashtuns’ opposition of the British rule in former NWFP, Balochistan and entire Tribal areas. The NWFP got rid of this draconian law in 1956, whereas Balochistan, Malakand and Dir got freedom from its shackles in 1973, however the FATA remained hostage of FCR. The people of FATA, despite being Pakistanis, didn’t have equal rights like other citizens.
Under collective punishment clause of FCR anyone could be punished for a crime committed by someone else from the same tribe. The individuals being punished didn’t have the right to appeal against their convictions, couldn’t hire a lawyer or present reasoned evidence.
The Political Agent enjoyed tremendous judicial and executive authority, with no mechanism to check the misuse of power. The Tribal Council submitted its recommendations to the PA about conviction or requital of an accused, but the PA was not bound by their judgment and had the powers to override it. The verdict given by the PA could not be challenged before the higher court, which resulted into many human rights violations. The FCR also allowed the arrest of the children and women of the fugitive’s family. Around 4.5 million population of FATA lacked the basic amenities including job opportunities, health care and better education etc.
The bounties were only shared with bigwigs/ Maliks by the PA, but the common man didn’t get anything, which increased the gap between different classes. The majority populace of FATA, especially educated youth, despised the century old system of governance and desired to have the rights like other Pakistanis.
In a rare occasion all the lawmakers, religious parties, baring a few, institutions and the society showed solidarity with the people of FATA and quashed 118 years old black law. The bill has paved the way to bring FATA in mainstream national politics and end a colonial type administrative arrangement.
With the passage of said bill from KPK Assembly on 27 May, the celebrations broke out in FATA, a magnificent display of jubilation was displayed at Bab-e-Khyber by a spectacular firework. The FATA merger bill is a harbinger of change and hope for the people and promise for the prosperity in the region. The people will have no identity crisis or the discrimination on any account. However, the FATA region, which faced numerous problems due to the old governance system, Russian invasion and US War on Terror etc, need special resources to bring it at par with the rest of the country.
The government has already allocated additional Rs100 billion to FATA beside Rs 24 billion under the National Finance Commission; it would also get special funds of Rs1000 billion. With the signing of amendment by the President the tribal area has become history. The new KPK has addition of 4.5 million people in its fold and addition of 12 NA seats, giving it a strong standing in national politics.
The people of erstwhile FATA will have 21 members in the KPK provincial assembly to represent them and resolve their problems. The development of the region and creation of employment opportunities for the people need to be taken on priority. The road communication, health, education and development of industries for job creation need special attention. The region itself has lot of potentials to provide the employment to the locals, in the form of huge deposits of minerals etc, which needs to be explored under the government patronage.
The region can also become tourists’ attraction and can bring prosperity to the residents, but it requires necessary infrastructure development and improvement of security situation. The fencing of Pak-Afghan border, already underway, combined with proper policing under new system is expected to improve the law and order.
Overall the passage of merger bill is beginning of a new dawn for the Tribal people and promise for a bright future for their coming generations. The folks, however, have to watch out and guard against those who don’t want to see peace and progress in these areas.