Federally administered tribal areas are situated at the northwest of Pakistan — it comprises almost seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions. The area is entirely inhabited by Pashtuns/Pathans. It borders the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Baluchistan to the East and south. To the north and west the area is bordered by Afghanistan. It is a well known fact that FATA is the most endangered part of Pakistan.
Only 34 percents of FATA inhabitants managed to live above the poverty level. As far as education is concerned, the overall literacy rate in Fata is 33.3%; far less than the national average of 58%, as estimated in 2013-14.
Moreover FATA is still governed under a distinct set of rule known as the frontier crime regulation (FCR) 1901. So it is evident that the trend towards violent extremism in FATA is deeply rooted and is a reaction to large-scale poverty, injustice, endemic high unemployment, religious bigotry and barbaric political system.
The tribal areas are mostly dubbed as “safe haven” for militants. Now a question arise that what is the causes behind the grim picture of this specific area. Where is the mistake, and who is responsible for the whole scenario.
Since the inception of Pakistan, this particular region faces the neglecting attitude by the government of Pakistan. A number of governments comes and go, but did little or nothing for the development of FATA.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto directly visited to the tribal belt and met with a common man from door to door. He listen the grievances of the tribal peoples and tries to resolve the issues. He allocated developmental funds to different agencies like Mohmanad, Bajaour, South and North Waziristan. The establishment of Razmak cadet collage was an instance of these visits. — Although the visit was a result or reaction of SUR (RED) revolution in Afghanistan but it is a separate and detailed debate. What he did at that time was purely for the benefit of the tribal belt. He also tries to introduce adult franchise in the region but it was delayed and never implemented in the election of 1977.
No political leader of the top class visits the tribal areas after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
Later the same adult franchise was introduced in 1997 by then president Farooq Laghari. Similarly, for a long period of time political parties were banned from operating any type of activity in the tribal belt, but after 2002 ordinance of political parties order (PPO), the political parties can freely run their political campaign. It has a positive impact on the socio-political scenario of the region. With the access to electorates now the political class will have to pay attention towards the region. All these were welcome steps and it lays its positive imprints for the people of this region.
It is also a bitter reality that over 70 years of independence no tribal men ever played any role in the political and administrative activity of the state of Pakistan. After the visit of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto none of the political leader ever visited to this war torn area. None of the leader shows any interest to go to the area and pay heed to the grievances of the people. Although PM Nawaz Sharif visited to the area but he never met directly with the common man. It was not less than a photo shot at Razmak military camp.
After a long time a hot debate was going on during the recent past — it was about the FATA reforms. A long debate was moving on and different school of thought presents their own ideas according to their own interest. But we couldn’t saw any fruitful result of these discussions. These reforms contain two parts. The first one was regarding the status of FATA. Whether it should be declared as a separate province or it should be amalgamated into the province of KP was the matter of concerns.
Tibal people have no basic rights what people of other regions of the country have
Another aspect was about the FCR, a black law which is imposed on the people of FATA. It is an act according to which the basic rights are not applicable to the residents of FATA. A summary of these basic rights can be pictured as “Appeal, Wakeel (lawyer) and Daleel (demonstrations)”. Article 247 of the Pakistan Constitution provides that no Act of Parliament applies to FATA, unless the President of Pakistan consents. Only the President is authorized to amend laws and promulgate ordinances for the tribal areas. — The elected representatives thus have no say in administration of FATA. It also repeals the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s courts over FATA. By inference, this also limits the application of fundamental rights to FATA.
In the words of Late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius, said that the FCR is “obnoxious to all recognized modern principles governing the dispensation of justice”. The irony is that the FCR had specifically been devised to counter the opposition of Pakhtuns to British rule, and their main objective was to protect the interests of the British Raj. Over a century later, the laws continue to be applied to FATA residents by the Government of Pakistan. It is a matter of fact that the constitution of Pakistan ensures inalienable rights to all the citizens of Pakistan.
For example Article-9 protects life and liberty, Article-10 provides for safeguards against arrest and detention, Article-12 provides protection against retrospective punishment, article-13, gives protection against double punishment and self-incrimination, Articles-15, 16 & 17, respectively guarantee the freedom of movement, assembly and association. All of these articles are violated on daily routine in FATA.
How great injustice is this that being the citizens of the country whose population enjoys all the constitutional provisions but the tribesmen is excluded from this. Why are the tribesmen not the citizens of this country? A country whose prime minister raise the slogan of happy and prosperous Pakistan where they will be equality before law, equity whether it is social, political or economic equality, where the media raise the slogan of equal rights and protection of minorities, where the civil society is united on the matter of human rights, where the international community concluded a number of convention on the equal rights of citizen whether it is social and political rights, where the international community send billion of dollars to protect humanity from cruelty and injustice. But alas! Despite of all these developments the residents of FATA is still standing on the same footing where they were some 100 years ago.
In FATA, challenging the government officials — the political agents, is a crime
Today in the global community, a hot debate is started on the punishment and death sentence, but we the people of FATA is still responsible from the crime committed by our kin and relatives. We can still lose our freedom to get property and movement just because our relative is being convicted for a crime. We still are unable to raise our voices to the judicial doors and demand justice.
It will be a crime if we even think to challenges the political agents. The media is still silent and no one comes to FATA to get the opinion from the local peoples that what they want and what they wish. The government is still silent to conduct a referendum and get a fair opinion of a common tribal man that what he wants. The grand jirga system is failed. It is failed because it always wants to polish their own vicious interests. It is failed because they did nothing for the tribal peoples.
The political class also becomes failed to resolve the issue. They will always raise their slogan whenever they find their own interest and after the fulfillment of that interest they will get stepped back. They become failed because we still have devastating state of education. We still have nothing with regards to health facilities. We still have no voice in any matter of national interest. We are not equal before law.
It’s the time for the government of Pakistan to think and act seriously on the matter. It’s the time to ensure the equal rights to the citizen of FATA, all those rights which is enjoyed by the citizen of Punjab and other provinces. It’s a time when FCR must be discarded and thrown into the Indus River and the patriotic tribesmen should be treated as citizens of Pakistan. It’s becomes the need of the hour. It’s a human right which must be ensure as Nelson’s Mandela once said, “to deny people their human rights is to challenge their vary humanity”.