PESHAWAR, June 13: The title of malik or lungi holder, a legacy of the British era, is still the most sought-after designation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as pro-reform groups suspect that government is trying to protect the ‘redundant’ system of governance by appointing new maliks.

Information gathered by Dawn from officials concerned reveal that approximately 6,000 tribesmen have been appointed as maliks or lungi holders during the past few years, showing apathy of ruling parties for introducing reforms in Fata.

The mainstream political parties including PPP and ANP had promised in their election manifestoes to bring amendments in Frontier Crimes Regulation, but they seem helpless before the powerful establishment.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had sanctioned 2,000 titles of maliks and lungi holders few months ago, leaving behind his predecessor Shaukat Aziz, who had sanctioned 1,000 titles during his tenure.

The former president Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf had also announced over 500 lungi holders during his military regime.

The successive governors of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who serve as agent of President to the tribal areas, also sanction designation of maliks and lungi holders every year on the recommendation of commissioners or respective political agents.

Now parliamentarians from Fata have been recommending their own people for the title of malik to strengthen position in their constituencies while political agents are pleasing their buddies by nominating them as maliks.

MNA from Kurram Agency Munir Khan Orakzai said that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani had sanctioned 2,000 designations of malik on the request of Fata parliamentarians. The titles were distributed according to population ratio of a tribe.

He said that each malik would get Rs25 honorarium annually from the political administration. He said that MNAs from Fata had been allotted quota to recommend names of suitable persons for the title and respective political agents would verify credentials of the recommended people before their appointment.

Senior officials support appointment of Maliks, who they believe are necessary for running the existing administrative system, protect the state’s interest and also work as bridge between the political agents and the tribes.

“Unless the existing system is replaced the government will appoint new Maliks to give representation to the tribal people in decision making process,” remarked Habibullah Khan, secretary of States and Frontier Regions.

Another aspect of the appointment of maliks, according to the official, is to facilitate tribal people in attestation and verification of national identity cards, passports, domiciles and other legal documents.

However, pro-reform groups are opposing appointment of maliks and lungi holders, saying bureaucracy is trying to block amendments in FCR and extension of Political Parties Order, 2002 to Fata.

Abdur Rehim, president Fata Democratic Movement, opposed appointment of new maliks in the area, saying establishment did not want to weaken the existing system, which protected vested interests of the bureaucracy not the state.

“In fact bureaucracy is trying to block reforms in FCR by inducting more and more maliks who work as its agents,” he said, adding that FCR had already lost its utility.

The British had introduced malik and lungi holders system to execute government policies. Their monthly stipends ranging from Rs5 to Rs120 are determined according to their services and performance. In some tribal agencies influential persons were given title of Chief or Nawab. Interestingly some of the maliks are getting only Re1 to Rs5 honorarium per month.

The number of maliks, lungi holders and chiefs has been increased with the passage of time and their number varies from agency to agency. The number of maliks is now in thousands and it is being increased.

According to details, South Waziristan Agency has 2,300 maliks (1700 from Mehsud and 600 from Ahmadzai Wazir tribe), North Waziristan 1,600, Orakzai Agency 8,836, Bajaur Agency 7,300, Mohmand Agency 9,833 and Khyber Agency 3,568. In addition the government has also appointed maliks in six Frontier Regions.

MNA from Bajaur Akhunzada Chattan, who belongs to PPP, is also in favour of appointment of new maliks. He said that malik was an integral part of the existing system.

“There is a difference between malik and privileged elders in Fata,” he observed, saying maliks helped people in verification of their documents while privileged elders only served interests of political agents. He said that establishment was main hurdle in introduction of reforms.