PESHAWAR, June 13: Political reforms in Fata proved a hard task for a host of parliamentarians, politicians, tribal elders and civil society activists who discussed the issue for five hours here on Wednesday but could not decide how to hold the bull by the horns.
The brainstorming session on ‘Political Reforms in Fata’ took place in the Governor’s House. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar presided over the session.
Tribal elders said that they supported political and social reforms and amendments in the region but not at the cost of compromising on their customs and traditions. They said that government should first ensure lasting peace in Fata and then bring reforms.
The participants of the session demanded abolition of Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, 2011, amendments in Article 246 and 247 of the Constitution, which deal with Fata and changes in Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Women participants demanded reserved seats for tribal women in National Assembly and Senate.
An elder, while elaborating the level of authoritarian role of political authorities in tribal agencies, told the governor that even he could do nothing in Fata without the consent of political agent and tahsildar.
An official, briefing participants about process of reforms, said that Fata Civil Secretariat had hired consultants to prepare draft of local bodies system in the area. He said that consultants were hired in February 2011 and the documents would be presented to the governor for approval very soon.
MNA from Bajaur Agency Akhunzada Chattan opposed Civil Secretariat’s plan for hiring consultants to prepare draft of local bodies and said that tribal people should be taken into confidence before introducing changes in the system.
He termed bureaucracy a major hurdle in the implementation of reforms. He suggested forming a committee to monitor implementation of the reforms in Fata. He also proposed an elected Fata election council to decide future of Fata.
Presidential spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said that reforms could work as “driver” in restoration of peace in the tribal region. He was of the view that reforms introduced in Fata so far were insufficient but they would provide a base for bringing more reforms in the system.
He suggested that Fata Secretariat should set up monitoring mechanism to watch implementation of reforms and point out weaknesses. For this purpose, he proposed that governor should call a meeting of leaders of mainstream political parties and ask them why not they started political activities in tribal agencies.
Political Parties Order, 2002 was extended to the area last year.
About the enforcement of the controversial Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, 2011 Senator Babar said that the law was introduced to identify illegal detainees in Fata and set up interment centres for those detained people to facilitate their relatives.
He said that around 3,000 people had been detained in Fata for their alleged involvement in militancy or supporting militants. He said that the ordinance could be abolished through a resolution in National Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly if tribal people did not like it.
Mr Babar expressed reservations over delay in introducing local bodies system in the area and assured that tribal people would decide whether they wanted merger with the province or separate province for themselves.
Arbab Tahir of Awami National Party said that the government could not achieve desired results without expelling militants, particularly foreigners, from Fata. He said that government should engage civil society in the reform process.
Senator Salih Shah said that government was receiving grants and aid in the name of tribal people but that the money was being spent on developing Islamabad, Peshawar and other areas.
Jamaat-i-Islami provincial chief Mohammad Ibrahim Khan said that system could not be changed in tribal areas until government amended Article 246 and 247 of the Constitution. He said that army opposed amendments in those two articles related with Fata. He complained that political administration in the tribal agencies was restricting workers from organising political activities.
Governor Kausar directed the political administration not only to allow the political parties but to encourage them for political activities in tribal areas. In a presentation on the occasion, the governor was briefed about the political reforms in Fata which includes extension of Political Parties Order 2002 to tribal areas, reforms in Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), establishment of FCR Tribunal in Fata and encouragement of political activities in tribal areas.