PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif formed a five-member committee to recommend reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) after members of the National Assembly from tribal areas submitted 22nd constitutional amendment bill for bringing reforms in FATA, in the Lower House of the Parliament in 2015.
The committee headed by the prime minister’s adviser Sartaj Aziz visited all the tribal agencies to ascertain the viewpoint of people about the reforms process. After completing the consultations process, the committee presented its detailed report in the National Assembly on 9 September, 2016.
The report said most people of FATA want merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, it said people want some reforms in the region before merger with KP. It said restoration of law and order, return of all internally displaced persons (IDPs) and restoration of damaged infrastructure are essential before changing the constitutional status of FATA. A proposal for organising local bodies elections in FATA before the end of 2017 has also been presented.
TNN has interviewed people from different parts of FATA to know how they rate the recommendations of FATA Reforms Committee.
Ghulam Hussain from Mohmand Agency said the FATA Reforms Committee did a tremendous job for recommending reforms according to aspirations of tribal people. He said the FATA people were demanding reforms for the last 70 years.
Akbar Jan, president of Siddiqabad Bazaar in Bajaur Agency, welcomed the recommendations, saying that it will create provincial assembly seats for FATA. He said FATA should be merged with KP without delay and judicial system and local bodies system should also be established in the tribal areas.
Sabil from Kurram Agency said the reforms must be implemented in letter and spirit and the package money should be spent on development of FATA. It is a good factor in the reforms that Riwaj (tribal traditions) will not end immediately. The wholesale and abrupt changes may prove counterproductive, therefore, everything must be done in a careful phase-wise manner.
Abdul Wahid from Khyber Agency said he had some reservations about the working of the committee initially, but it finally presented very positive recommendations. He said FATA merger with KP and local bodies polls before 2018 will pave the way for further reforms.
Nadia Khan from South Waziristan said the committee wants to bring judicial system in the tribal areas under the Riwaj Act. However, she said there are some technical issues with these proposals and amendment in Article 247 of the Constitution have not been mentioned anywhere.
Adnan Betani from South Waziristan said there are no proposals about women rights. she said the tribal women, who constitute half of the FATA population, have been ignored in the reforms process.
Ishaq from North Waziristan said he is worried that the proposals presented by the committee envisaging five or 10 years time for certain projects will see the light of the day or not.
Different political parties are also actively raising their voice in the reforms process. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has called upon the federal government to accelerate the reforms process and merge FATA with KP by 2018 so that the people of tribal areas could take part in the next general elections in the province.
To ascertain the viewpoint of other parties about the proposals of the reforms committee, TNN arranged a debate among the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Mohmand Agency chapter president Dr Farooq Afzal, Jamaat-e-Islami FATA youth wing president Shahjehan Afridi, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Mohsin Dawar and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) FATA president Mufti Abdul Shakoor.
TNN (from Mohsin Dawar): What in your view are the main points in the proposals presented by the FATA Reforms Committee?
Mohsin Dawar: It was the 16th committee which was formed for presenting proposals about FATA reforms. I was opposed to the formation of this committee and wanted debate in the National Assembly on the original bill presented by the FATA lawmakers. However, the committee formed by the government has finalised its task now. In its report, the committee has presented some good proposals besides pinpointing some basic problems in FATA. The proposals of extending the jurisdiction of the High Court and Supreme Court to FATA, local bodies polls, development package and computerisation of land record are very positive and encouraging.
The second big thing is bringing different Riwajs from Bajaur to Waziristan on same pattern. The Riwaj Act will go through the scrutiny of the High Court and Supreme Court. Why it has been given the name of Riwaj Act when it will be drafted in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Civil Procedure. What is the need of a Jirga to resolve a case under the Riwaj and who will ensure selection of unbiased and honest members for such Jirga.
The committee has also recommended formation of two committees – one will work on the governor level and the other will work on the federal government level. The governor level committee will have representation of FATA lawmakers, but it will be headed by the governor. The governor will also include technocrats in that committee according to his own choice. The federal level committee will have no representation from FATA. In such a scenario, the FATA people will have no say in announcement of any package in a certain area.
Despite the fact that the report has clearly revealed that most funds in FATA are wasted due to corrupt practices, it is again proposing implementation of development projects in the tribal areas through the FATA Secretariat. This procedure runs the risk of massive corruption and will not bring any positive change.
Expanding the jurisdiction of courts to FATA will be a very good step. Why the people of a FATA are getting their rights in bits and pieces. It is likely that only few proposals will be implemented while others will be ignored.
TNN (from Dr Farooq Afzal): Mohsin Dawar feels the FATA people are not getting their full rights, which means that the reforms proposals have left much to be desired. What is your take on it?
Dr Farooq Afzal: Although the reforms package was drafted after hectic efforts, but still I think there is some confusion in it. When the FATA people are yearning for coming under the Constitution of Pakistan then what is the need of Riwaj Act? Similarly, I feel that there is no need of FATA Good Governance Regulation (FGGR) in the tribal areas as proposed by the government committee.
Secondly, the committee has divided the draft proposals into two parts i.e. some suggestions will be implemented in five years, while others will be implemented in 10 years. The time period of 10 years for development schemes is understandable, but the period of five years for FATA merger with KP is too long. General elections in the country will be held in 2018 and non-implementation of reforms by then will be a great injustice with the FATA people.
TNN: What are the main plus points in this reforms package?
Dr Farooq Afzal: The holding of local government elections is the most striking element in the reforms package as these polls will be held on political parties basis. It means that the old practice in which a political agent selected representatives of his choice at his office will come to an end now.
TNN (from Shahjehan Afridi): What are the main positive and negative proposals in the reforms package?
Shahjehan Afridi: The JI leaders accompanied by members from 10 other parties held a meeting with the FATA parliamentarians after formation of the reforms committee. We agreed on some reforms, which did not include Riwaj Act. At a time when we want to extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to FATA, Riwaj Act will create unnecessary trouble. The proposed period of five and 10 years for reforms is also too long.
TNN (Mufti Abdul Shakoor): What is your opinion about the proposals on FATA reforms?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: The JUI-F don’t want immediate merger of FATA with KP. We are not against this proposal, but we want the whole thing should be done after consultations with the tribal population.
TNN: Why are you opposed to it despite the fact that the committee members visited all the tribal agencies to consult the FATA people?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: No doubt that the committee members visited the tribal agencies, but they did not consult the common man. The government committee only met the Maliks and other people of their choice. Thousands of people used to protest outside the meeting venues whenever the committee members held meetings in FATA. These people were not allowed to get in to express their views on reforms. I also tried once to meet the committee members, but I was not allowed to do so.
TNN: So what are the main disadvantages in the reforms proposals?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: The best option for FATA people will be the creation of a separate province. If Shariah can be implemented in Malakand Division and jurisdiction of the High Court and Supreme Court is extended to it, then why not the Islamic Act can be implemented in FATA, where the people are known world over for their love for Islam.
TNN: What will happen if the new proposals, including the Islamic Act, impede the ongoing reforms process?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: What is the use of such reforms which will destroy our future? There is no chance of immediate merger of FATA with KP or holding of local bodies polls.
TNN: Haven’t they set a time period of five years for this purpose?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: We won’t mind the reforms implementation even in five months if these are carried out after proper consultation with the tribal people.
TNN (from Dr Farooq Afzal): Mufti Abdul Shakoor is not satisfied with the whole process and wants another round of negotiations on the question. What is your opinion on it?
Dr Farooq Afzal: The draft of proposals clearly mentioned that they received different views about reforms from different areas during their visits, but most people wanted FATA merger with KP. It is very encouraging that the proposals seek High Court and Supreme Court jurisdiction in FATA without disturbing the existing Jirga system. It means that if two parties want to resolve their dispute through Jirga, then they can do so. However, under the previous system, the political agent was empowered to form a Jirga and now this power will rest with the High Court and Supreme Court judges. I believe this proposal is made keeping in view the tendencies of the FATA people.
FCR is a 110 years old law and people of FATA are used to it, so it will take time to change this system. On the other hand, efforts for the change are also very strange. The report says 20,000 Levies personnel will be appointed in FATA. They are planning to merge us with KP, then what is the need of appointing Levies personnel? Why they are not recruiting police force in the tribal areas? They are deliberately going slow in the reforms process in order to give people time to adjust to new kind of administration. There is possibility that the FATA people will not adjust to police system immediately, so they have given five-year time for this purpose.
TNN: Mufti Sahib! Don’t you believe that the current reforms package has left much to be desired?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: The assessment made on the damages in the military operations in FATA is very low, while the actual situation is much different. Every affected family must get at least Rs1 million and the heirs of people who lost their lives must get compensation according to Shariah. The women’s right to property must also be enforced in FATA like other parts of the country. Mega uplift projects must be carried out in FATA and system of Shariah instead of Riwaj Act must be implemented. Access to justice is very easy in the Shariah system.
TNN (from Mohsin Dawar): What will you like to add to the existing reforms proposals?
Mohsin Dawar: I am very concerned about the proposal of FATA merger with KP. This proposal is not very clear and I believe that they don’t want to do it and just beating around the bush.
TNN (from Shahjehan Afridi): What is your opinion about this?
Shahjehan Afridi: JI fully supports the proposal of the FATA Reforms Committee. No matter we are consulted in the process or not, the whole thing is in the interest of FATA people. The reforms must be implemented without delay.
TNN: So you believe that the reforms proposals are very comprehensive and enough to change the destiny of the tribal people?
Shahjehan Afridi: The existing reforms must not be impeded and after merger of FATA with KP, all the political parties will continue efforts for getting all the rights of FATA people. Refusing the take whatever is available in the hope of getting everything at once may prove counterproductive. After holding of local bodies elections in FATA, we can launch a movement for complete merger of FATA with KP by 2018.
TNN (from Farooq Afzal): Would you like to add something in the existing proposals?
Farooq Afzal: Population census must be conducted in FATA before the next general elections. The displaced people must be provided financial assistance to enable them to resume their normal lives after returning to their areas. The families of martyrs of tribal areas still get only Rs300,000, while the families of martyrs in settled areas get huge packages. The tribal people should also be treated like people of settled areas.
This article has been taken from Radio TNN programme Badloon which discusses political activities and reforms process in FATA. Badloon provides a platform to the FATA people to record their opinion about the reforms process. The programme was prepared by TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Abdul Qayum Afridi which was broadcast from six radio stations of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
TNN correspondents Saleemur Rehman, Shah Khalid, Gul Muhammad, Malik Azmat, Ali Afzal, Gohar Wazir, Rizwan Mehsud and Nabi Jan Orakzai contributed to this report.