The FATA reforms process which was initiated in 2015 saw delays due to differences among different political parties over the mode of reforms as well as the confused approach adopted by the government towards the issue.

The government had apparently put the issue on the back burner until new prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and his cabinet revived the process and directions were issued on 13 September, 017 to bring a new draft law in place of Riwaj Act.

Extension of the Supreme Court and High Courts’s jurisdictions to FATA, replacement of FC by Police, merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, initiation of mega development projects and share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award are the major ingredients of FATA reforms document.

“We should take whatever we get in the FATA reforms. However, we are against the creation of a post of chief operating officer (CEO) with unlimited powers. The new draft will be prepared after thorough consultations and no one will have objections over it. The sitting government will take all steps in this regard while the remaining work will be done by the next government,” FATA parliamentary leader Nasir Khan Afridi said while talking to TNN.

The people of FATA will get access to superior judiciary after passage of the bill and they will get all their rights after abolition of Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Member National Assembly from Khyber Agency Al-Haaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi says the system of DRCs (dispute resolution councils) is working successfully in KP and it will also be effective in FATA in case of merger.

“DRCs will resolve disputes of FATA people according to their traditions. For example, Mehsud, Wazir and Barki tribes in South Waziristan have different traditions, and DRCs can resolve their disputes keeping in mind the traditions of particular tribes. It is impossible to get 100 percent consensus on any issue in FATA as the prevailing old system benefits certain people and they are likely to offer resistance. Everyone will present his own line of action, but those who will have the support of masses will succeed eventually. We have given deadline for FATA reforms till 9 October. The government should act before it is too late,” he told TNN.

MNA from North Waziristan and State Minister for SAFRON Ghalib Khan says the FATA parliamentarians are more inclined towards pursuing their own agendas. He said the tribal lawmakers should unite to make the reforms process successful.

Ghalib Khan added that the government is serious in bringing reforms in FATA and ready to take any steps in this regard.

“There is no doubt that the present government and all and all our institutions are serious in bringing reforms in the tribal areas,” he said.

Hassan from South Waziristan says: “We fully support Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s new initiative about FATA reforms. Things are going in the right direction which is an encouraging scenario.”

Muhammad Bashir Mulazai from Parachinar, Kurram Agency, says why the people of FATA are not being treated like other Pakistanis when they have Pakistani identity cards and passports.

Anwar Orakzai says: “Now they are talking about bringing another law instead of Riwaj Act. What is the need of Riwaj Act or any other act when FATA is being merged with KP. The Constitution of 1973, which is enforced in KP, should also be enforced in FATA after the merger.”

Shakir Afridi from Bara, Khyber Agency, says: “Political parties are making efforts for reforms, but I don’t think the federal government will take any practical step in this regard.”

Ziarat Gul Mohmand says he was happy after initiation of reforms process and hoping that this process will reduce difficulties of FATA people.

“We supported Riwaj Act as we are used to our traditions. They don’t have money to hire lawyers. The existing system addresses their grievances without spending money. Only the well-off people will benefit from this change. They have personal interest in such changes,” he said.

Sajjad Mohmand from Mohmand Agency said while talking to TNN that Riwaj Act was a replica of FCR.

TNN also conducted a discussion with FATA Political Alliance senior vice president Nisar Mohmand and FATA Grand Alliance leader Malik Waris Khan Afridi over current status of reforms process in FATA.

TNN (from Malik Waris Khan): FATA reforms process has been resumed after a long pause due to pressure exerted by different quarters on the government. Are you satisfied with the ongoing process?

Malik Waris Khan: FATA reforms and the proposal of merger with KP have been discussed for a long period. We also want reforms, but it must be seen whether the FATA people are satisfied with the proposals of FATA Reforms Committee or not. They should show recordings of the proposals to people. If this was not done, then the process will remain in doldrums for the next many years.

Nisar Mohmand: I would like to remind Malik Sahib first that we also want the committee to make these recordings public. Due to our persistent struggle and demands for the rights of people, the committee decided in favour of the tribal people for the first time in the country’s history.

TNN: How do you see the proposal in the bill which seeks appointment of a CEO for FATA despite presence of governor, FATA Secretariat and administration?

Nisar Mohmand: The CEO will make sure transparent expenditure of funds which will be given to FATA under the NFC Award. The CEO will be appointed for a specific period so there is no harm in it. The government is giving access to FATA people to approach the Supreme Court, but tying them with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is illogical. If FATA people come under the IHC that it creates an impression that we are not part of KP. A question mark arises on the sincerity of the federal government on this particular issue.

TNN: What will be your strategy in this scenario?

Nisar Mohmand: We are planning to show our power on 9 October through a massive public gathering. We will march on Islamabad if the government did not show sincerity in the reforms and merger of FATA with KP.

TNN (from Malik Waris Khan): You were very active in the reforms process, but that activism has faded away somewhat after resumption of the process. What is the reason behind this?

Malik Waris Khan: We have never given up our activities as we have arranged a programme on Sunday and then a convention on 14 October. We will not slow down in efforts to bring reforms in FATA according to the wishes of people.

TNN: Will you support the appointment of CEO for FATA?

Malik Waris Khan: It is a matter of grave concern that people have not developed consensus on mode of reforms and the government is coming up with new formulas. Everyone in Pakistan is discussing Panama Papers and FATA reforms, but the most important thing is peace in the region. No one is paying heed towards high unemployment ratio in FATA. The population census in FATA was highly questionable. People in FATA enter marriage at an early age, while many people enter second and even third marriages, but no one is raising the question that why the population of FATA is on decline instead of increasing rapidly.

Nisar Mohmand: Malik Sahib pointed towards census and I would like to say that the political parties have rejected the census results. We give polio drops to over one million children in FATA which means that our population should be over 10 million. It is a blunder which should be corrected.

Malik Waris Khan: They were talking about reforms and now they cannot develop consensus over it. They seem to be clueless about carrying the reforms process forward. We have objections over their repeated slogans of merger and not paying heed to reduction of powers of political administration and political agents.

TNN (from Nisar Mohmand): Riwaj Act faced a lot of criticism and it was termed another face of FCR. What is your opinion about the new draft?

Nisar Mohmand: We want implementation of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan in FATA. Riwaj Act or any other act was not included in our demands. Now they are bringing a new draft and the jurisdiction of courts will also be extended to FATA. With the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, all other problems will be resolved gradually. All systems contrary to the Constitution will be abolished. At least they should take a start now.

TNN: FATA reforms are being discussed in Islamabad and we have two leaders from FATA here who don’t see eye to eye on the issue. Will these differences benefit or damage the FATA people?

Malik Waris Khan: Consultations always yield positive results. The president and prime minister should invite tribal elders and ask them why they are against the proposed merger. We will present our reservations and they may also try to convince us on their viewpoint. It will pave the way for consensus and conflict on the issue will come to an end.

TNN (from Nisar Mohmand): Isn’t it possible that contentious issues are set aside and both sides move forward on common objectives?

Nisar Mohmand: FATA is part of Pakistan but it was kept backward during the last 70 years. Jamrud area of Khyber Agency touches borders of Peshawar. There is gas facility even in Karkhano area of Peshawar, but there is no such facility in Jamrud. We are facing such difficulties due to prevailing system in FATA. We will get gas facility and share in the power and mineral resources under the 1973 Constitution after merger with KP.

Malik Waris Khan: Is there any hospital like Lady Reading Hospital and Khyber Teaching Hospital in any other district of KP. Is there water supply system in any other district than Peshawar? Peace should be brought to FATA and people should be given time. During the given timeframe, the government should promote education in FATA and carry out development schemes. After that period, the FATA people should be asked whether they want merger with KP or not. Any decision about future of FATA without consultation will be fruitless.

This article has been taken from TNN programme Badloon which highlights political activities and reforms process in FATA. TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Salman Ahmed prepared this programme which was broadcast from five radio stations of FATA and KP.

TNN correspondents contributed to this story: Rizwan Mehsud, Ali Afzal, Malik Azmat, Shah Nawaz Khan Afridi, Gul Muhammad Mohmand, Shah Khalid, Nabi Jan Orakzai, Bilal Mehsud and Hikmat Shah contributed to this article.