A step towards progress

What’s wrong in the implementation of Fata’s merger with KP and what is right?

A step towards progress

The fate of Fata has finally been decided. The FCR has been repealed and laws of the land extended to all the tribal agencies along with the institutional paraphernalia. Several attempts were made to streamline Fata yet the present government succeeded in making something out of this fault-line.

Some quarters from within and outside Fata desired different outcomes, including making Fata an independent province, amending the FCR to the extent of expunging the undesirable clauses only and retain the Rewaj system.

Another contention was for referendum and placing the fate of Fata before the people of Fata to decide either way. However, Sartaj Aziz’s Committee consultative meetings and their findings were considered sufficient by the government. It would have been better to go for a referendum so as to settle it once and for all in a democratic manner.

The National Implementation Committee expedited rather rushed with the amendments which surprised many. The haste has been ascribed to the interest shown by the military in getting it done so as to dilute the disenchantment rising among Pashtuns and expressing itself in the form of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement. PTM is silent on this subject and their demands pertain to security audit and accountability of the military operations.

The proposed plan of merger include extension of judiciary (both higher & subordinate ) to Fata, police, prisons, prosecution besides doing away with the centralised set up of the political administration. An interim regulation has been promulgated whereby the same system has been retained (jirga through council of elders by the political agent) yet deleting the undesirable aspects like collective punishment, etc. The PA/APA however will be called as DC/AC during the interim period.

A plan has been chalked out for policing and establishment of the judiciary which will be funded through the enhanced revenues coming through the NFC award. A three per cent cut has been proposed on the provincial share in NFC so as to fund the same, yet it’s to be noted that it has been attached with another two per cent cut for the security. There is an impasse between the federal and provincial government over the NFC though which ought to be resolved to proceed further.

The authors of the implementation plan seem preoccupied with the ‘security’ and most of the document pertains to policing, prisons and prosecution, etc. As for the 10 years development plan, some references have been made about meetings held between the UNDP and Fata Secretariat regarding various sectors.

There is about 12000-strong levies force and 18,000-strong khasadar force. It has been proposed that the levy force will be transformed into professional police and officers will be brought from the police service of Pakistan (PSP) cadre and provincial police.

The khasadars will be declared a "dying cadre" and about 9000 khasadars will be inducted into levies. The 16000 frontier constabulary’s legal role is to guard the border between Fata and settled area which made them redundant to perform the same after merger. They have been proposed to become elite force of the police. Besides police, other components of the criminal justice system like prisons, prosecution and others are also detailed for extension into the erstwhile Fata.

The issue in that proposed plan is "over-securitisation" of the already "over-secured" Fata. Mainstreaming of Fata has more to do with the development, not adding more forces of different colours with their additional guns and procedures. Isn’t the army (which is still here) and the huge frontier corps enough for now?

The office of the political agent, which would be called as deputy commissioner, has been weakened to the extent of being non-functional. Such an abrupt shift would be difficult besides being counterproductive in other respects. The levy force, traditionally, has been with the deputy commissioners. Several districts in Malakand retained the levy with the district despite introduction of police force.

Levies is meant for establishing the writ of the state and ensure service delivery by the deputy commissioner. A weak civil administration is bound to fail the ten year development plan, which is crucial for mainstreaming Fata.

The 16,000-strong frontier constabulary can be turned into police with further recruitments. It is also to be noted here that the frontier corps with huge presence is mandated for guarding the national border but is also utilised for policing purposes when required. Hence, initially 16,000-strong constabulary with support from corps will suffice to start the routine policing besides the levy. The khasadar are yet to be abolished and the territorial responsibility of policing is still being carried out by them.

The Rewaj Act was designed to keep intact the jirga system. However, the new committee has done away with the same and instead regular courts are to function under PPC, CrPC and Evidence Act, etc., with the standard procedure for trials and prosecutions. The new system will be a "judicial shock "for the residents of Fata for facing radical change in their system of adjudication and dispute resolution mechanism.

The Rewaj Act must be enacted to retain the centuries-old system whereby the people have been conveniently resolving their disputes. Even in the settled districts, people are returning to the Alternate Dispute Resolution, yet the same is not bearing fruit on account of it being based at the police station.

The police is supposed to create deterrence; not adjudicate. My contention on Rewaj Act too was that the jirga should not be conducted by the judiciary which is naturally prone to decide cases based on written laws, statements and positive arguments, not the traditional mode of reaching to some common middle ground between the warring parties.

The Rewaj/jirga must be preserved and should be placed at the office of the deputy commissioner. It should be paramount and precede the judicial process. The judiciary may intervene when the jirga fails to resolve the matter or if violation of fundamental rights is involved.

Some people are not pleased with the interim regulation and deem it as retention of the FCR. Well, it isn’t as there is no black clause in it. Besides, it’s an interim arrangement for about one year only. I personally feel there should be extension of Nizam-e-Adal Regulation 2009 of Pata to the new districts of KP so that it get smooth transition.

The vacuum has to be filled with either this interim regulation or ideally with the Nizam-e-Adal Regulation.

The outgoing government adopted the 30th amendment yet it missed the 29th amendment for restoration of magistracy, which is equally crucial. The district administrations are acting rudderless and people have lost trust on this central point of the government. The vacuum created has also been filled by the anti-state elements who were approached by people for the settlement of their minor disputes.

The restoration of magistracy is more important in case of the new districts from Fata as people are used to with quick dispensation of justice and the delayed justice may become a cause of their dissatisfaction -- remember Swat and Malakand.

Read also: Just short of real merger 

All the departments of Fata will be shifted back to their parent departments in KP like in pre-2005. Only law and order, P&D & finance will remain under ACS Fata. It would be better if a transition directorate is established for liaison and coordination among various entities. Shift all the departments and attached bodies back to KP. The 10 year development plan should be managed by the Fat Development Authority (FDA), yet it’s to be noted that FDA has got serious capacity issues. It ought to be manned with capable staff.

Finally, merger is a step towards progress. Among many the caveat of keeping the civil administration strong and keeping the Rewaj intact are too serious to be ignored. The other steps include the revocation of Article 245 to demilitarise Fata, share in NFC, Truth & Reconciliation Commission to reveal truth and dispense justice so as to proceed further and stopping the use of the region and the people as fodder for others wars.

A step towards progress