Time for FATA reforms

AT long last, the Sartaj Aziz-led Committee on FATA Reforms has submitted its recommendations, which were thoroughly discussed for consecutive two days both by the civilian and the military leadership but instead of adopting them it has been decided to make them public to elicit public opinion. On the face of it, this seems to be a prudent decision as broader and intensive discussions would crystallize various recommendations and how best to implement them but open-ended discussions are likely to cause delay which would be unfortunate as already there has been criminal delay in introducing much-needed reforms in tribal areas.
The sum total of the recommendation is that FATA should be merged with KP, priority should be given for rehabilitation of TDPs, introduction of a 10 year development plan for tribal areas, holding of local government elections in the region and allocation of special seats for FATA in educational institutions for 10 years. There have been suggestions and demands about creation of a separate Province of FATA but the Committee insists the proposal enjoys no support and that there was wider consensus on merger of the region with KP. However, in this context, the preference should be given to the viewpoint of tribal people. There has also been universal demand for abolition of colonial FCR and its replacement by the ordinary laws but the recommendations are somewhat mum over the issue. There can be no normalcy in the area until and unless the full writ of the state is extended to FATA and there should be no compromises or retreat on this account as we witnessed recently when the Federal Government was pressurized by all types of vested interests to repeal extension of Customs Act to FATA and PATA. Formulation of 10-year development plan is OK but it should be based on sound studies and ground realities and there should be no discrimination. Holding of LG elections should be a priority as these would help resolve problems of the people at their doorsteps. We hope the recommendations will be finalized in coming weeks following comprehensive discussions in the Parliament to ensure their broader ownership.

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