National, Opinion

Reforms in FATA and a Provincial Status for Hazara

The present government is to present a new bill aiming at alleviating the black law called the Frontier Crimes Regulations-1901 imposed by the former colonial power from the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA). The FCR does not grant full rights to the people of FATA as citizens of Pakistan. The new law will bring them at par with other citizens of Pakistan through constitutional reforms. This will provide more democratic and constitutional provisions and rights to the people of FATA. It will extend the jurisdiction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) to the tribal areas. Its presentation in the National Assembly meant granting equal rights to the tribal peoples which will ultimately replace the FCR.

The new bill has been prepared after the opposition to the previously proposed Rewaj Act 2017 in the National Assembly in May this year by Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) of Fazal ur Rehman and Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party of Mahmood Khan Achakzai. The former bill envisaged the merger of FATA with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) after five years of its imposition.

The political parties demanding a separate Hazara province for the people of Hazara also opposed the former bill. They demanded the formation of Hazara province before the merging of FATA with KP. The Tehreek Sooba Hazara’s chief, Haider Zaman, opposed the FATA’s merger with KP and announced a countrywide campaign for creating Hazara province. He stressed the government to hold a referendum in FATA before taking any decision. He added that presently the tribal people were slaves of the federal government and now new efforts were being made to make them slaves of the KP government.

The legislators from other regions of the country as well as those from FATA opposed the former bill. The MNA Dawar Khan Kundi stressed the need for more administrative units. Former Senator Hameedullah Jan Afridi stressed the government to hold referendum whether the 15 million people of FATA wanted to merge with KP or wanted a separate province of their own. MNA Jamshed Dasti said that the people of Hazara, FATA, Seraiki and Gilgit should have their own provinces.

In lieu of these observations from the political parties within the parliament and outside the parliament, the government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi prepared a new bill to grant rights to the tribal people. The new bill will ensure the implementation of the Article 247 (5) to the tribal agencies through which the federal government will make regulations to bring peace and good governance in FATA. In this way, the security will be provided to the tribal people through reforms in police and other administrative departments.

The people of the FATA have long been demanding for constitutional and democratic rights for them. The present FCR has been criticized by all the political parties and international organization like Amnesty International for its flaws and biasedness to the ordinary people in FATA. The tribal areas should have been brought into the national arena under the laws from the very beginning of the formation of Pakistan. Had it been brought then, there would have been no problems like drugs trafficking, smuggling of goods, terrorism and lawlessness in the region. The introduction of Pakistani civil laws like the ones in Gilgit-Baltistan should have been promulgated in FATA.

The new bill will be a good step towards the process of democratizing and constitutionalizing the departments and people of the tribal areas which will keep FATA under the direct control of the Federal Government. The resolution of the problems and the miseries of the people of FATA lie in its own complete and independent political set-up. The Army will play its role in ensuring peace and a stable border security system in the region.

The recent call of the All Political Parties Conference on merging of FATA with the KP was convened by the Awami National Party on the 14th September, 2017. The major political parties attended the conference. However, the political parties stood divided as Jamiat Ulema Islam and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party disagreed with the idea of merging of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These two political parties have already opposed the proposed Rewaj Act 2017 which envisioned the FATA’s merger with KP after five years of its implementation. The Jamiat of Fazal ur Rehman have already supported the need of a separate Hazara province.

The appointment of a Chief Operating Officer (COO) by the federal government will bring FATA under rapid development which is not the capacity of the provincial government. In this way, FATA will get its own share in the national revenue which will be spent on its own development. It is also needed to have a well-defined border with Afghanistan. The same language speaking countries are living amicably and peacefully with each other in the world. For example, Germans and Austrians speak the same language, but live in different countries with well-defined borders. Pakistan should have a defined border with Afghanistan. The current Durand line should be immediately declared the permanent and defined border between two countries.

A few political parties are favoring the FATA’s merging with KP. In this way, they want to materialize their long-cherished dream of a greater Pukhtunistan. However, their dream seems not to be materialized as the Pukhtuns of the KP and the FATA have been contributing enormously to the economy an development of Pakistan. Their strength lies in a stronger Pakistan. The smaller federating units will make Pakistan stronger and its people prosperous as smaller units eliminate corruption, bring good governance and equal distribution of resources among them.

KP is home to multi-linguistic communities. Even the Pashtuns of FATA and those in the settled area of KP have enormous differences in their livings and culture. The KP is already a linguistically-imbalance province. The Hindko speaking communities in Hazara and Seraiki speaking communities in Dera are already suffering, and there is a linguistic-gap between them and the Pushto speaking communities. Hindko and Seraiki are intelligible languages with each other whereas the Pashto is not intelligible with these two languages. The merging of FATA will further increase the gap between the two communities.

It is also a fact that all the subsequent provincial governments in the KP have not truly served the people of the whole province; rather they being led by the chief ministers from different cities of the province did selected work for their own cities. The civic problems of all cities of Hazara, lack of interest of the provincial governments to improve and broaden the major GT from Hassan Abdal to Babu Sar Top are a few witnesses to the fact that these governments did not do anything for the development and uplift of the people and region of Hazara.

The sacrifices of the people of Hazara in the Pakistan movement and afterwards for its development are not hidden from anybody. However, in return they were given nothing; they have to visit to Peshawar for ordinary tasks in their routine life. The government servants of Hazara who are already kept at the mercy of the administration in Peshawar will suffer a lot. In case of FATA’s merger with KP, they will not be pleased to work in the environment which is totally different and new for them.

Their displacement from their region to areas close to Afghanistan will be against their basic rights. Their miseries and problems will multiply many folds. People in the government and non-governmental jobs are an important segment of the society. They will not be pleased for their transfers and postings in far flung areas of FATA. The worst affected region by the merging of FATA will be Hazara which is geographically detached from the rest of the KP.

The resolution of Hazara province in the KP assembly is already passed on 21 March, 2014, in which the representation from both Hazara and non-Hazara regions of KP were present. Whereas the resolution for the merging of FATA with KP was passed much later on 14 December, 2016. The legal position of this resolution may be questioned as the representation from the FATA is not present in the KP Assembly. The movement for Hazara as a separate province is much older and it is inherent in its nature.

The federal government should hold a referendum in FATA to ask the people whether they want to join KP or a separate province, or at least, a separate legislative body should be elected under the supervision of COO from the FATA through election which should decide whether they want to join KP or live in an independent province.

It is thus best time for the people, the provincial and federal parliamentarians and the political parties from Hazara working for the cause of a separate province to speed up their efforts for a separate province. The political parties should hold an All Parties Conference on the need of Hazara as a separate province. The present government of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will definitely reply to their demands as he himself belongs to a region that has closest proximity to Hazara, and he is more aware of the problems of Hazara than any other prime minister.

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