ISLAMABAD: Experts at a seminar, ‘Conflict in FATA and Governance’, organized by Institute of Policy Studies demanded provincial status for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) saying that if the people of AJK and Gilgit Baltistan were given right to govern their areas the same should be extended to FATA also.
It was also observed that the situation today in FATA was the direct outcome of the policy of Pakistan vis-à-vis the War of Terror.
The seminar, held here on Wednesday, was addressed by former diplomats and political scientists Rustam Shah Mohmand, Shamshad Ahmad Khan, Ayaz Wazir and senior security analyst, Brig (r) Said Nazir. It was attended by senior defence experts, civil and military officials, intellectuals and journalists.
The panelists deplored that FATA had been placed out of judicial jurisdiction of the courts and application of Pakistani laws. Even after the colonials left, the region has always been ‘administered’ by successive military and democratic regimes in Pakistan. The term ‘governance’ has always been a dream for the inhabitants of FATA.
“Trouble in tribal areas did not erupt in 2001 when USA attacked Afghanistan; the area remained peaceful even in 2002 and 2003 when US had captured the whole of Afghanistan. It was only after December 2003 when Pakistan army entered the region that the insurgency started,” stated Amb. Ayaz Wazir.
Underlining the patriotism of the people, he said, underlined that despite heavy use of force including fighter jets, gunship helicopters and long range artillery combined with all sorts of exploitation, the tribal people have not gone against the state. If such an action would have had been taken in any other part of Pakistan, including Punjab, people would have reacted quite differently, he opined.
He said FATA has always been administered not governed. It has no representation in provincial assemblies. There were 12 MNAs and eight senators from the area but they are not part of governance or even administration. Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) was put in place in 1901 but unfortunately retained ever after the Independence in 1947.
Highlighting the dichotomies in governance of FATA, he added that constitutionally, FATA was under direct control of the president of Pakistan; the real power, however, rests with the chief secretary of the province who appoints members of the civil bureaucracy as political agents. Even the FATA secretariat, established a few years ago by the governor of the province, was run through provincial civil servants, which again report to the chief secretary. So it was the province that was actually in control. Amendments in FCR and extension of Political Parties Act to FATA were too late and too little. FCR now subjects decisions of political agents to judicial review but the irony was that it was the political agent himself who wears the cap of a judge and was expected to review his decisions and actions.
Brigadier Said Nazir Mohmand suggested a multipronged approach towards reviving peace in FATA and said that the prime minister should take all the political, security and civilian establishment on board and determine the goals and objectives of dialogue process with TTP. The broad policy contours be drawn and the maximum and minimum gains, give and take strategy be crystallized.
Shamshad Ahmad Khan in his remarks called for a constitutional restructuring of the country to address governance issues like FATA’s.
He also said that Pakistan should use its current position as member of the UN Security Council to promote a culture of pluralism and integration for global peace. It should not portray itself as a victim but should come forward as an advocate for peace and harmony in the world, he added.
Concluding the session, Rustam Shah Mohmand said that during entire Afghan Jihad in 1980s tribal areas have been transit route of mujahideen but the area remained peaceful. It was the induction of military and complete alignment with USA that has caused insurgency in the area.
He said that the power center today was not the governor or the political agents; it was the army. Civil set up, whatever it was, has become irrelevant. Any law or amendment in FCR has to be made in view of social and cultural milieu of the area, he added.
He went on to say that drones have caused thousands of civilian casualties and not even the names of the innocent people including women and children were disclosed.
He was of the view that laws would not act upon themselves; it was the political will and implementation that would do.
He said, while US has always been making tribal areas as scapegoat, how many times they have intercepted any movement from FATA into Afghanistan; not even once. He claimed that US has always been sabotaging indigenous efforts for peace. They killed Naik Mohammad in 2004 when a truce was in the offing; they bombarded Dammadola village in 2006 when an agreement was to be signd next morning and all eight elders representing the local tribes were hunted down. Now they have killed Waliur Rahman who had been nominated for talks with Pakistan by TTP.
US has been talking with Afghan Taliban so much so that they now have a diplomatic presence in Qatar but it does not let Pakistan talk to its own people here.