ISLAMABAD: The long-awaited plan to integrate the tribal areas along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa envisages a transition period of five years, while a 10-year timeline has been set for development activities and financial mainstreaming of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
The plan has been developed by a 10-member committee, headed by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, and aims to reduce gaps in development and per capita indicators between KP and Fata.
The committee took eight months to come up with the detailed report, which “will be shared with all stakeholders to get further feedback”, Mr Aziz told Dawn. He will also be meeting the Senate chairman and the National Assembly speaker on Thursday (today) to discuss the recommendations and also hinted at the possibility of tabling the report in parliament in order to develop a broader consensus over the long-awaited reforms package.
The tribal belt has been viewed as a ‘no man’s land’ since the days of the British Raj and even after 69 years of independence, the colonial-era collective Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) still applies in the region.
The committee’s report unequivocally advocates repealing the FCR and replacing it with a new ‘Tribal Areas Rewaj Act’
The tribal jirga system will be retained for both civil and criminal matters; judges will appoint a ‘council of elders’ to decide factual issues in accordance with rewaj (traditions) and will issue decrees or orders in accordance with its findings and the applicable law.
FCR to be replaced with new rewaj act; tribal areas to receive share from NFC
The FCR’s most notorious provisions, relating to collective/vicarious responsibility, will be omitted from the new act, making each individual responsible for his own actions and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court will be extended to Fata.
Sources in the PM’s Secretariat told Dawn the report was being made public on the directives of the prime minister, who had decided to consult all party leaders over the committee’s recommendations. The process of soliciting further feedback may take a month or two before implementation can begin, sources said.
The report also lists the possible impediments to the smooth implementation of the package, the most prominent being the ‘tribal mindset’. In addition, tribal chieftains or maliks “who have many privileges and benefits from the existing ... system, may oppose integration”, the report states.
To address these challenges, the committee recommends reforms on four fronts: security, political, economic and administrative.
The committee has set clear targets for reconstruction activities: the resettlement of temporarily displaced persons will be completed before the end of 2016, while the bulk of reconstruction should be completed before the end of 2018.
The construction of roads, communication, power lines, water supply, education and health services will be done by the government, while the repair or rebuilding of private houses and shops will be left to the owners themselves, who will be given cash compensation.
In addition, land settlement will be undertaken using modern technology to create individual records of land rights based on GPS-managed records, along the lines of the system adopted in Punjab. Currently, most of the land in Fata is held collectively and cannot be used as collateral or sold to create equity.
Property records are also an important pre-requisite for banking operations in Fata and are seen as an essential for attracting private investment.
A special committee of experts and officials will be formed under the KP governor to prioritise the preparation of a 10-year Comprehensive Development Plan for Fata before the end of 2016.
For the first time in the country’s history, an allocation of 3pc — around Rs90 billion — will be made in the National Finance Commission (NFC) for Fata, giving the tribal areas a share in the resources of the federal divisible pool. This will be in addition to the existing annual PSDP allocation of Rs21 billion.
Moreover, 30pc of the allocation under the 10-year plan will be channelled through the local bodies.
In 2002, the government had extended the Local Government Regulation to Fata and in 2004, some agency councillors were nominated by political agents. However, the system did not take off because locals had no confidence in these “selected” office-bearers who effectively had no powers.
In 2012, the Fata Local Government Regulation (LGR) 2012 was drafted to establish local bodies in the tribal areas, but it could not be promulgated.
Once the rehabilitation phase is complete, the reform plan envisages party-based local body elections before end of 2017. This would require the promulgation of the Fata LGR, which could take up to three months.
An important component of the development plan is the establishment of modern urban hubs in all agency headquarters and other important trading centres.
The Fata Development Authority (FDA) will be reorganised with enhanced powers to implement large-scale infrastructure projects under the 10-year plan.
The post of chief executive, a grade-22 officer, will be created under the KP governor to administer and implement the 10-year plan.
An advisory council, consisting of all Fata senators and MNAs, will also be set up to assist the governor in carrying out development and administrative functions.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016