Overdue Fata reforms
5/5/2015

IN hindsight it is readily acknowledged that Fata, notwithstanding political developments regionally and within, was perfectly positioned to become an incubator of extremism in large part because of the state`s exclusionary policies towards it. Following the realisation, which has come at a high price for the nation, there has been much talk of `mainstreaming` the area so as to end its isolation on multiple fronts constitutional, legal, political, administrative, economic etc. The Fata Reforms Commission, set up nearly a year ago by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor, presented its recommendations last week. Briefly, its suggestions include: another commission should be formed to look into constitutional reform, the members of the Frontier Tribunal increased from three to four and the body headed by a retired high court judge councils set up in every tribal agency and frontier region, and a governor`s council established with representation from the aforementioned councils as well as from parliament, etc.

All in all, the outcome is a sad reflection on our ability to think outside the box, and discard discredited formulas. Much like other task forces set up earlier with the same mandate, the Fata Reforms Commission has played it safe, proposing cosmetic measures that evade core issues while retaining the archaic, unrepresentative form of governance and the highly discriminatory Frontier Crimes Regulation that prevails in Fata. As per Article 247 of the Constitution, no act of parliament applies in the tribal areas without the president`s approval nor does the jurisdiction of the country`s superior courts extend there. Without correcting this fundamental anomaly, reforms in other spheres in Fata are meaningless and that, by extension, hobbles the long-term strategy against fighting extremism in the country as a whole. In fact, the conditions under which the military is reportedly allowing some IDPs from North Waziristan to return home are based upon the concept of collective responsibility, on which some restrictions had been placed in 2011 by amendments to the antiquated FCR. There is no effort by the state to examine various options as to Fata`s future political status a separate province, an entity along the Gilgit-Baltistan model, or part of KP and chart a viable road map towards it. The lack of commitment to this vital issue can also be seen in the fact that the Fata reforms sub-committee formed under NAP in December has so far met only once, and made no effort to coordinate with the Fata Reforms Commission. N hindsight it is readily acknowledged that Fata, notwithstanding political developments regionally and within, was perfectly positioned to become an incubator of extremism in large part because of the state`s exclusionary policies towards it.


Published in Dawn