Walking the talk on Fata

March 21, 2019


LAWMAKERS in the KP Assembly have rightly raised concerns about a time frame for the integration of the former Fata into KP. Specifically, they have demanded a targeted timeline for the extension of district courts, police and revenue systems to the tribal districts. During a session on Tuesday, opposition lawmakers criticised the federal and provincial governments, saying that the merger of the tribal districts with the province was done “without homework” and was leading to administrative and legal complications. They also stated that without a proper mechanism for ‘mainstreaming’, the lack of progress on the extension of the police system had left the Levies and Khasadar personnel in limbo and also created issues for land settlement.

Although the Fata-KP merger was signed into law in May 2018, there appears to be no practical movement on the critical components of mainstreaming the tribal districts — despite lofty promises and statements by both the previous and current governments. The delays can be attributed to several hurdles; the turf war between the bureaucracy and the police; the lack of a mandate for the caretaker government; post-election delays; and a lack of clear leadership since the new government came to power. In recent days, however, it appears that the prime minister and his cabinet have renewed their efforts on the Fata issue with the announcement of a three-week consultative process to discuss with locals a 10-year plan under which Rs100bn will be spent on the development of the tribal districts every year. The time frame will undeniably be contingent on the availability of resources, which means the government must be clear on how its proposed budget will be met. Beyond verbal assurances, there should be a dedicated and sincere focus on the issue of reforms and their implementation, and a detailed strategy with practical phases must be created with input from all stakeholders. The government’s declaration is encouraging, but the challenges remain serious and need to be addressed in a transparent and systematic manner for the sustainable well-being of the people of tribal districts.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2019