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September 10, 2015

Fata or Pata?

Opinion

 
September 10, 2015

After 68 years of our history, Fata parliamentarians realised the need for mainstreaming Fata – with the 22nd Amendment, which is the change of ‘Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ to ‘Provincially Administered Tribal Areas’.
Instead of asking for the abolishing of ‘special status’ and Articles 246 and 247, Fata parliamentarians are advocating for amendments, which is a futile exercise. The status quo will remain the same – ie the president will still be deciding the fate of tribals living in the seven agencies. In addition, neither federal nor provincial assembly members would legislate for tribes living in Pata.
It is pertinent to understand Pata from a historical and administrative perspective. The British established the strategically important Malakand into a tribal agency (including the princely states of Dir, Swat, Chitral and Bajaur) in 1895 to secure a route to Chitral, bordering Afghanistan.
However, in 1969, princely states were abolished and merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) as its districts. In the 1973 constitution, the Malakand tribal agency was converted into a Pata district with Pata regulations (Regulation I of Pata Criminal Law and Regulation II of Pata Civil Procedures), and the Bajaur Agency was separated.
These regulations were a combination of settled and tribal areas features such as tax exemption, extension of the electoral system, abolished FCR and formed regular courts, given representation in the KP Assembly, later extended to the local government system and continued with the jirga system. Almost like Fata, the president of Pakistan and the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are the legislators (their signature is needed to enact a law in Pata) leaving the provincial setup with other responsibilities such as maintaining law and order and the administration of Pata.
District management officials replaced the old British system political agents. Complications arose though, when in 1990, locals in

challenged these resolutions in the Peshawar High Court. In 1994, on the demand of the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammad – a religious group led by Sufi Mohammad who also operated a pressure group that later on got involved in militant activities in Swat, Dir and Malakand – Shariah was enacted in courts along with Pakistan Civil and Penal Code. Later in 2009, the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation was introduced for qazi courts along with the provincial administrative setup in Malakand. Post-2009 was the most traumatic period for people living in Pata.
It is ironic that Pata is not much different from Fata in terms of political and economic empowerment. The question is: why are Fata parliamentarians demanding only amendments? Is this a backlash of the presidential ordinance concerning voting procedures in the Senate elections? Is it a reaction to the absence of funds available to Fata parliamentarians in the present budget? Do the local elites of Fata now want space in the provincial assembly to manipulate it the way they are doing so in the National Assembly and Senate?
Somehow, these demands for amendments sound very shady now. How many of them raised a voice or helped internally displaced tribals due to the ongoing militancy? Do they have any understanding of what repercussions will follow if it is merged in the province without self-rule? How will the Pata status change the fate of poor, ordinary tribals?
These queries need to be answered. Unless political, social and economic transformation is guaranteed to ordinary tribals, no reform or amendment is going to help them.
The writer is a political analyst from Fata.

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