PESHAWAR: The people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have different thoughts regarding changes in the administrative system of the region.
The establishment of a separate FATA Council is one the options that are being discussed in the ongoing debate on the future status of FATA. The tribal people are divided on the question of establishment of a separate FATA province or council.
Muhammad Gul, a resident of Bajaur Agency, says that who will provide resources to such a big and scattered region if it becomes a province? Some people will want the headquarters of the FATA province in Khyber Agency, while others will prefer it in Mohmand Agency. The FATA merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a better option for the tribal people,” he suggests.
Shahabuddin, another resident of Bajaur, supports a separate council for FATA and says “Even in case of merger with KP, we may demand a separate province in the future for our rights. Therefore, we must demand a separate province today to stand on our own feet,”
Muhammad Asim of Kurram Agency is in favour of FATA merger with KP as the province already has a system which needs to be extended to tribal areas.
Asghar from Bajaur says creation of separate FATA Council is better than merger of the region with KP. “We want democratic reforms which are in conformity with our tribal traditions. The FATA Council will be autonomous in its decisions in various sectors like education, industries and jobs creation and the political administration will work under it,” he says.
Muhammad Ali, a resident of Kurram Agency, says the main offices of FATA are already located in Peshawar, therefore, merger with KP will be a better option as tribal people have many things in common with the people of KP.
Shahid Khan from Orakzai Agency says “FATA has its own human and material resources to sustain itself as a separate province. However, it can also be merged with KP if the option of separate council is not feasible. The people of FATA are fed up with the FCR which must be abolished,”
Abdul Wahid from Khyber Agency believes that the FATA people are bound in cultural ties with KP and their life is incomplete without KP. “The Khattak, Yousafzai, Afridi, Wazir and other tribes have tribal roots. We have the same religion, culture, language and traditions which make us inseparable,” he explains.
Malik Khan Zaman of Orakzai Agency supports FATA province and says the government should give the FATA people their right of a separate province.
On the other hand, Sajjad Mohmand opines that FATA is facing law and order issues since long and it shares borders with the war-torn Afghanistan due to which having a separate federating unit will be very difficult. He argues “FATA consists of 3,000 kilometres border area which makes its management very difficult. KP has 43 departments, while FATA has only 15 departments. Establishment of so many new departments in the tribal area will also be a cumbersome exercise,”
However, Maulana Abdul Haq of Haleemzai tribe in Mohmand Agency supports establishment of a Shariat Court in FATA and opposes merger with KP.
He adds that Islamic system will ensure the protection of everyone rights. “A Shariat Court should be established in the FATA province to ensure a system based on justice and fair play. Merger with KP will damage the tribal status, Jirga system and other traditions of FATA,” he opines.
Jalal Mehsud from South Waziristan is of the view that KP is already burdened under its own population and it will not have the capacity to provide jobs to the FATA youth. He says many people from FATA travel abroad for jobs after failing to find employment in their own country.
A resident of Jamrud sub-division of Khyber Agency, Mosam Khan Afridi says the traditions and culture of FATA are different from KP and the tribal people have a separate identity.
“We are different from the people of Peshawar in many ways. We even don’t understand the accent of each other. The tribal people should retain their identity,” he proposes.
The political and tribal leaders also differ on the modus operandi of the reforms in FATA. The FATA Grand Alliance and FATA Political Alliance leaders are on the forefront in this regard.
In order to ascertain the pros and cons of establishment of a separate FATA Council, TNN organised a debate among FATA Grand Alliance leader Malik Waris Khan, FATA Political Alliance leader Ijaz Mohmand and tribal journalist Nasir Dawar.
TNN: Why FATA Grand Alliance is opposing FATA merger with KP?
Malik Waris Khan: We have closely observed the democratic and justice system in the country. We have also observed the performance of the country’s political parties. There is no democracy in the political parties. Cases remain pending in the courts for several years without any conclusion. That is why we are trying to retain our system. A person who copies others forgets his own identity and becomes ludicrous. We have a specific system which is not there either in KP or Balochistan. We have a specific identity, which might be lost if we try to merge tribal areas with KP. We also want reforms and change in the system, but that must come after consultations with the tribal population in a democratic manner. If the people want merger with KP then it is alright, but if they want betterment in the existing system, then this demand must be fulfilled. We don’t support a separate FATA Council which will be subordinate to the political agent. We will only support a system which is approved by the tribal population. The FATA people must be given right to elect their representatives for FATA Council and the council must be given at least 20 years to prove its effectiveness. The council members will be responsible for carrying out development schemes in their constituencies like establishment of schools, health centres and tube wells etc. The local government elections in FATA are also must to transfer powers to grassroots level. The population of FATA is more than Balochistan, but still the tribal people remain deprived of their rights. Those who support FATA merger with KP must first look at the plight of KP. We don’t support complete abolishment of the FCR; rather we want changes in it. We don’t want to lose our special tribal status because it will damage our traditions and customs.
TNN: On which grounds FATA Political Alliance opposes the establishment of FATA Council?
Ijaz Mohmand: Neither creation of FATA Council is feasible nor it is a solution to the problems of tribal people. Everyone knows that the tribal people want to get rid of FCR and status quo. The youth of FATA are now fully aware of their rights and they are increasingly agitating against the existing system through the social media. The tribal youth have told their parents that they will no longer move with them in the existing system come what may. Our young generation has great access to the media and they know what will they get after merger with KP. Currently, Punjab is about 60 percent of Pakistan. The merger of 15 million population and 27,000 square kilometres land with KP will make it the second biggest province of Pakistan and Pakhtuns will reap the benefits of 2,300 kilometres long border of Central and South Asia. It will unite the Pakhtuns to make organised struggle for their rights.
Malik Waris Khan: We should directly ask from the young generation of FATA about their views on the reforms process.
Ijaz Mohmand: I beg your pardon Haji Sahib! But you will get the real picture even if you ask about it from your own children and grandchildren at your home.
TNN: As a journalist, what in your view is the best option for FATA? Merger with KP or separate Council?
Nasir Dawar: FATA merger with KP will reduce its eight Senate seats, but at the same time it will get up to 40 provincial assembly seats. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough political acumen. Elections in FATA are not contested on party basis as political parties are not active in the tribal areas. The sale and purchase of FATA lawmakers during the Senate elections create a great embarrassment which will end after merger with KP. It is an open secret that a person who aspires to become a senator from FATA needs to spend at least Rs1 billion. How can we expect a person, who gets a post of senator by spending Rs1 billion, to work for the betterment of the people. The first priority of such a person will be to retrieve his spent money in Senate elections.
TNN: Malik Waris Khan thinks that KP is short of resources to support the burden of FATA. Do you agree to this assertion?
Ijaz Mohmand: No concrete reforms had been implemented in FATA. The amendments in FCR in 2011 were also very encouraging but that were not implemented in letter and spirit. The FCR was in place in half of the country 100 years ago but it was gradually lifted from those areas except FATA. The areas that are being ruled by FCR are far backward than those areas which are free from FCR.
The question of merger with KP relates to geographical position of the region, not to the language or traditions of people. The Jirga system in some settled areas of the country is more effective than FATA because they are backed by the law. Jirga system is failing in FATA because the tribal elders are not enjoying enough powers and backing. FATA is a long strip which cannot be converted into a separate province.
The FATA merger with KP is also important because FATA province will not be able to look after the 2,300 kilometres long border connecting South and Central Asia. As far as the point of Malik Waris Khan regarding tribal traditions and Jirga system is concerned, the bill presented in the National Assembly seeks the status of PATA (provincially administered tribal areas) for FATA like Malakand Division. The system of Qazi and Jirga is working simultaneously in Malakand. A Jirga decided a multiple murder case in Malakand few days ago. We don’t want complete merger with KP, rather we want the status of PATA. Malakand has the status of PATA for the last 30 years and now its people want complete merger with KP. So merger with KP should not be seen as compromising on customs and traditions of FATA.
Malik Waris Khan: If they are converting FATA into PATA, then why they are not utilising these energies on development of education, agriculture and healthcare sectors in the tribal areas. The people of FATA love development and they don’t care if their precious lands are affected due to construction of new roads. Development projects should be carried out in FATA for 20-25 years after which the people of the area should be asked whether they want to join KP or maintain separate identity in shape of FATA province.
TNN: Malik Sahib wants the traditions and culture of FATA to remain intact which he thinks is not possible if FATA is merged with KP, while Ijaz Mohmand believes that no system can work in FATA in the existing status of the tribal areas. As a journalist, do you agree with these assertions?
Nasir Dawar: No doubt that the life of displacement since 2008 was a very difficult experience for the people of FATA, but it had a positive impact as well. The displaced people saw development in other parts of the country and sent their children to schools in these areas after knowing the importance of education. They will now return to their native areas as more aware people about their rights.
There are no big hospitals or universities in FATA and colleges are very few. Now the people of FATA are demanding establishment of more educational institutions in their areas. I am performing duties as a professional journalist both in FATA and Peshawar. I have seen 54 traditional Hujras (male guest houses) in Tehkal area of Peshawar which are no longer found in FATA. Many disputes are settled in these Hujras by gatherings of local residents and elders on weekends. In surrounding areas of Peshawar, like Chamkani and Jhagra etc. matters are still resolved through Jirgas and people only approach the courts after Jirgas fail to resolve their disputes. The Jirga system is still intact in Peshawar, while it is diminishing in FATA because of undue interference of the political administration.
A dispute on the capital of FATA Council will emerge in case it is made a separate province which will take at least 30 years to resolve the issue. I also fear that the tribal people would kill each other over the issue.
TNN: Being a lawyer what do you think about the constitutional aspect of making FATA a council or province?
Ijaz Mohmand: Provinces are created keeping in view certain geographical conditions and establishment of FATA Council is not feasible in that perspective. Merger with KP will give right of legislation to the FATA people for their area. It will help establish writ of government in FATA and stop foreign militants from settling in the region. It will also eliminate drug mafia, murderers, smugglers and proclaimed offenders. Opponents of FATA merger with KP must show some flexibility in best interest of the tribal people.
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 Qayyum which was broadcast from six radio stations of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
TNN correspondents Nabi Jan Orakzai, Saleemur Rehman, Ali Afzal, Malik Azmat, Gul Muhammad, Shah Khalid and Rizwan Mehsud contributed to this report.