FATA and peace are two terms that have become question marks for the whole world. All eyes are on peace building in the tribal areas. FATA is a land that is described by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as part of Pakistan, the sixth largest democratic nation in the world, and the second largest in the Muslim world.
According to widely accepted democratic norms, the state should be responsible for providing fundamental rights to all its citizens. Despite this, FATA is the only part of Pakistan that is treated differently by the constitution and separated from the rest of the country. Practically speaking, the constitution does not exist in the tribal areas as they are administered under a “black law;” under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, often referred to as FCR. This set of laws—formulated for the region by British colonial rulers in 1901—deprives the people of their right to appeal, wakeel (legal representation) and daleel (evidence).
113 years later, in 2014, the citizens of FATA are still deprived of their fundamental rights. Even after more than 65 years of Pakistani independence, tribal citizens have still not been set free from the “black law.” Who can believe that in the 21st century, an entire village can be considered responsible for the crime of a single person? Who can believe that the village is held responsible even if the alleged crime is committed hundreds of miles beyond the FATA border? This incomprehensible injustice has been the plight of FATA citizens in the past and continues today.
Extension of the Political Parties Order (PPO) to FATA in 2011 increased the hopes of its people, but though tribal citizens have been given the right to elect their own National Assembly representatives, those same representatives continue to be denied the right to legislate for their own area. According to Article 247 of the constitution, Parliament is deprived of the right to make laws for FATA and therefore denies the people of FATA their fundamental rights despite having gained the right to vote in 1996.
2011 amendments to FCR were an achievement of the previous government, but their implementation is a far cry from the changes needed. It’s like the old saying “Adha teetar, adha bater” (half partridge, half quail). Unless Article 247 of the constitution is amended and unless there is a change in the political administrative system, all of the amendments thus far will have no long-term impact.
The current scenario demands peace in the region and this peace is not only linked to peace inside Pakistan’s border, but also with peace in several other regions. What we are confronting today is the obvious result of ignoring the provision of fundamental rights to the citizens of FATA . It is the result of ignoring equal rights and development in the tribal areas.
A new generation is seeking education. They are looking for new opportunities. They are waiting for assistance and expecting real development in FATA . None of this will be possible unless Article 247 is amended and the FCR is abolished.
We call FATA a part of Pakistan. Its citizens are known as Pakistanis. Despite this fact, the people of FATA are treated unjustly. In their own land, they are waiting for the government of Pakistan—waiting for their own government—to bring them truly and completely under the umbrella of a true, united Pakistan.
The writer is a central Senior Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and a member of the Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms (FATA Committee).