The resolution to merge FATA regions with KP has been passed by the National Assembly with an overwhelming support. The resolution tabled under the name 31st Constitutional Amendment required a two-thirds majority to be passed.
Almost all political parties with the exception of JUI-F and PkMAP have stood behind this amendment in a great show of national consensus
The bill has been passed in Senate with the required two-thirds majority as well. It now awaits the signature of President in order to be officially recognized as part of the law. The parties opposing the bills have come up with various reasoning. For instance, MQM Pakistan has stated its reservation regarding the merger since they support the idea of an independent province comprising of FATA territories. Parties like JUI-F has simply stated that the merger is not in line with the wishes of FATA residents. However, the fact that Maulana Fazal ur Rahman’s party enjoy the most influence in the region is a significant factor in the opposition of a merger.
The Legal Problem
Before going forward it is important to take a step back in history, in order to fully understand the importance of this bill. This bill aims towards breaking the system of governance and legal framework left by the British Raj, for well over a century now. It will bring an end to the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) first introduced in 1901. The aim of this law like most colonial laws was not really to ensure the ideals of justice, but it was simply to ensure control and domination of public by the colonial administration.
These laws were brought into place to control ‘wild’ and ‘uncivilized’ tribals. It denied them their basic human rights
Under FCR people can be prosecuted without due process. They were denied access to courts and Pakistani legal system. All this basically translates to fundamental rights of FATA residents being undermined and leaves them without their right to fair trials or appeal any judgment passed against them. The lack of legal jurisdiction in the region leaves the fate of people in the hands of jirgas. Furthermore, the residents can be subjected to inhumane practices like collective punishment which entails an entire family or a tribe being subjected to persecution, due to the actions of an individual.
Aside from the legal dimension, another area to be addressed is that of citizenship and representation. Under the status quo, FATA has the right to elect it’s representatives to the National Assembly, 12 in number. These seats were allotted to FATA in 1996 after reforms were brought into place to introduce adult franchise in the region. However, it does not necessarily translate to a fair representative system. The region lacks local autonomy and administration.
Since the region is under direct governance of the federation, instead of elected representatives the people have to rely on state-appointed political agents to address their grievances
These administrative problems have played a huge role in the perpetual under-development of the region. The economic distress and violent realities of the region. FATA has remained one of the most under-developed and backward regions of the country, with state infrastructure in total shams.These elements over the year have resulted in the alienation of people of FATA.
The humiliation the people of FATA have been subjected to has resulted in political movements like Pashtoon Tahaffuz Movement being formed
Even mainstream politicians like Imran Khan have been strong proponents of FATA reforms, in order to bring the region under the jurisdiction of Pakistani Courts and Laws. The mainstreaming of the region is certainly a step in the right direction.
Hopefully the granting of political rights in the region, something which can be considered already 70 years a bit too late, will result in uplifting of the region and give a renewed sense of national identity to the much deprived FATA residents.
cover image via dawn.com