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The historic FATA merger : New dawn for tribals

By Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik

The Federal Cabinet approved the merger of the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) on 2nd March under a gradual process of five years. The region will fully merge into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The FATA will be ruled by new laws instead of the old draconian and the colonial Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), drawn by the British to administer the region with an iron hand. The FCR will be replaced by the Rewaj (customary) laws. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Peshawar High Court will be extended to the region to bring it under the law of the land.

The people of FATA will be given free mandate to elect their representatives in next year’s general elections as well 3 percent of National Finance Commission (NFC) award will be allocated to the region. Regular institutions and banks will also be established in the region to bring it in the mainstream system and culture, neglected for 67 years after the independence. This gives a new cohesion to Pakistan.

The proposed FATA reforms were debated and discussed for long but different parties represented their own thoughts and agendas that delayed the reforms process. After all twists and turns a firmed decision was made.

The Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-(Fazl) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party still opposed the reforms. The Chief of JUI Maulana Fazl ur Rehman felt deceived by the PML (N) as coalition partner in the centre, and he strongly opposed the reforms.

Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao called the FATA decision vague. While coalition partners of the PML (N) opposed the FATA package, the Awami National Party President, Asfandyar Wali Khan, appreciated the Cabinet for taking up the report of the FATA Reforms Committee. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) hailed the decision.

The PML (N) believed that enough discussion have been made on the reforms and it is time to implement them to bring the region at par with other areas of the country. The FATA Reforms Committee was headed by Sartaj Aziz, Adviser on Foreign Affairs. The Committee did a splendid and a landmark job.

The FATA reforms will further integrate the Federation of Pakistan, creating unity among different parts and people. The image of the country will be enhanced and the Government will be in an effective position to handle the war on terrorism in accordance with laws and regulations. The anti-smuggling measures could be effectively implement that could enhance the national revenue after special privileges will be tarnished.

The FATA reform is a landmark achievement of the PML (N) Government to transform the centuries old tribal society into a vibrant democratic civil society in Pakistan. The region of FATA would become an integral part of the KP province, giving it a new recognition among the provinces in Pakistan.

FATA will not maintain its separate and distinctive identity any longer. Its separate status created complete lawlessness and forced the military to take action. FATA will not bring into the mainstream but it will gradually merge into the KP in the next five years. It is a much greater decision than expected by others. -www.worldtribunepakistan.com

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