Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting on Wednesday with lawmakers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to have first hand information about the situation there. He asked the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to contact the elders of various tribes to ascertain the help needed from the federal government so that the people of the region could live in peace. The problem is that there has been no development worth the name, therefore the people are deprived of gainful employment. Everybody in the ruling hierarchy says that without improving law and order situation, there could be no investment, hence no development. Much publicized all parties’ conference earlier scheduled to be held on 12th July to evolve a national policy on militancy and security has been postponed. According to a media report of 1st June 2013, eleven political parties had met to discuss reforms priorities for the tribal areas, and demanded that peace be established and fundamental rights be guaranteed for FATA residents. Unfortunately, even the amendments to Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) made in 2011 have not been implemented.
The FCRs were remnants of British Raj framed in 1890 by which the tribal areas were administered through political agents. Under this system, if an individual of a tribe commits a crime, the entire tribe is penalized, which is against the very concept of justice. Anyhow, apart from judicial reforms it is imperative to introduce political reforms in tribal areas, as the people of the tribal areas are very much citizens of Pakistan, and are entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by the people living in other parts of the country. They should be given the right to form political parties or become members of the existing political parties of Pakistan. Had they been part of mainstream politics, it would not have been possible for the extremists’ outfits to aid or abet foreign militants to create problems for Pakistan. By allowing the political parties to reach the voters, circulate their manifestos and interact with the residents would create political awareness among the people, and the process would broaden their mental horizon.
The decision to establish Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in FATA was made in 2006 to provide boost to the local industry and provide jobs to people affected by the war on terror and also the people affected by the earthquake in the Hazara region. But no progress seems to have been made in this regard. Under the proposal, the US was to set up industrial units in FATA and earthquake-hit areas of PK as part of the ROZs and facilitate tax-free export of products to the United States. Additionally, local people were to get jobs on priority basis in the industrial units. But in November 2011, then commerce minister had told the then National Assembly Standing Committee that US administration shelved the proposal Washington itself had mooted in 2006. The reason ascribed for the decision was that the US House of Representatives and Senate declined to enact the legislation. As the US once again ditched Pakistan, the government should take steps for the development of the FATA, and also introduce political reforms immediately to win hearts and minds of the people.