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Reforms proposed for Fata’s merger into KP

Updated June 13, 2016

PESHAWAR: The Fata Reforms Committee has proposed a set of “parallel and concurrent” political, administrative, judicial and security reforms, as well as a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation programme, to prepare the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for a ‘five-year transition period’ for merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has been revealed.

“People of Fata have seen nothing but war and turmoil in the past 30 years. They now deserve peace, development and citizens’ rights,” the document containing the final draft of recommendations said.

Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, who heads the committee, will submit his report to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his return from Britain later this month.

The committee, constituted by Mr Sharif on Nov 8 last year, includes National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid and Minister for States and Frontier Regions, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch.

Members of the committee have visited all the tribal regions and held discussions with tribal elders, tribal representatives and government officials to elicit their views on reforms and the future status of Fata. The national security adviser provided input from the General Headquarters.

“The general drift (of the recommendations) is towards a merger,” a knowledgeable source told Dawn. “This seems to be the only workable and viable option,” he said.

The military, a key stakeholder in the ongoing deliberations concerning the future of Fata, has also given its feedback on the recommendations, a senior security official said.

“There is no disagreement here,” he said. “We all agree that Fata has to settle now and it has to be streamlined,” the official said. “The only consideration is that whatever timeframe we may follow it has to be realistic and it has to be with consultation and concurrence of all stakeholders.”

Sartaj Aziz declined to comment or discuss the content of the committee report.

The recommendations echo sentiment within the civil-military establishment that after decades of turmoil, Fata is now poised for a change. “Due to new ground realities and regional security imperatives, marginal or short-term measures would not serve the purpose,” the committee noted.

Not part of the recommendations, Dawn has learnt on good authority that a proposal is also “actively’ under discussion to put Fata under a separate administrative control with full administrative, legal and financial powers to push and oversee the transition period towards merger.

“There is a need for total and full focus on Fata,” a competent source said. “One thing is obvious: the current scheme of things with regard to Fata is not working,” the source said. “Call him the CEO, call him the deputy governor, but he has to be a person with undivided attention and who is effective and can push things through.”

Rehabilitation and reconstruction

The committee set the end of 2016 as the target date for the return of temporarily displaced persons and the completion of reconstruction before the end of 2017. “This gigantic task will require much larger financial resources and coordination,” the committee pointed out.

Socio-economic development

While noting that high incidence of poverty and unemployment make Fata the poorest region in the country, the recommendation seeks the setting up of a high-level special committee comprising experts and officials under the KP governor to prepare before the end of 2016, a ten-year development plan for Fata.

Proposing major infrastructure, irrigation, mineral development and integrated health, education, vocational training and industrial zones with special incentives, the committee said that the major aim of the development plan would be to bring Fata at par with the rest of Pakistan on the basis of all major economic and social indicators.

It said that 20 per cent of the allocation under the development plan should be channeled through local bodies.

For this purpose, it said, the National Finance Commission should be asked to allocate 2pc (approximately Rs60 billion in 2016-17) of the divisible pool for the implementation of the 10-year plan.

Local bodies

It has proposed holding of party-based local bodies’ elections in Fata after the completion of rehabilitation phase and promulgation of the Fata Local Government Regulations within three months and completion of all formalities, including finalisation of electoral rolls, constituencies, rules and regulations, before the end of the year.

This, it said, would restore trust between the state and the people of Fata, create a sense of ownership amongst them, extend the writ of the state and prepare the region for further political, legal, constitutional and administrative reforms.

Legal reforms

The committee has proposed renaming of the Frontier Crimes Regulation as Fata Regulation Act, 2016, omitting all sections relating to collective responsibility, retaining the Jirga system for both civil and criminal matters, whereby the court will appoint a council of elders to adjudicate matters in accordance with the ‘riwaj’ and prevailing law in force.

It has also proposed extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high court to Fata by amending Article 247, thus granting full fundamental and citizens’ rights to the people of Fata.

Capacity building of law enforcement agencies

The committee has called for the reorganisation and revamping of Levies to perform police function, introduction of police uniform and basic training, sanction and induction of additional 10,000 men, improved border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan and abolition of rahdari and permit system to end corruption and cross border movement.

Land settlement

While noting that property settlement is partly available in Kurram and North Waziristan, the committee has proposed introduction of proper land settlement property record in Fata on a priority basis for administration of civil laws and as a prerequisite for banking operation and investment.

In order to oversee the implementation of the reforms, the committee has proposed setting up of a reforms implementation committee comprising the KP governor, ministers of Safron, law and justice, the National Security Adviser, and a military representative with the prime minister holding a quarterly review.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2016