ISLAMABAD: Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been devoid of democratic entitlements and public services delivery for far too long. This was the main focus of a discussion among policy experts gathered at a roundtable at the Jinnah Institute on Monday.
The discussion was titled: Mapping the Future of FATA: Reforms and Reconstruction.
Khalid Aziz, the former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary of and senior adviser to the FATA Reforms Committee, said that the people of FATA were mostly left to their own devices, which many refer to as ‘shared sovereignty’ during colonial times.
“When FATA became a federal responsibility, it was not provided resources, infrastructure or finances as a provincial right,” he said.
He provided an update on the reforms committee’s working and salient features of the approved recommendations, highlighting that FATA would require substantial funds from the federal divisible pool.
Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood said that the major weakness of the tribal areas were education, health and infrastructure. “People of FATA have been excluded from mainstream democracy and are not granted economic or security-related provisions,” he said.
The discussion also highlighted large financial resources required for the development of FATA. Saifullah Mehsud of the FATA Research Center noted that provincial governments must agree to grant a portion of their financial allocations to tribal areas, which would be a difficult task to achieve.
Khalid Aziz specified that additionally, the National Financial Commission would have to grant at least 3 percent more to the provincial allocation of FATA in order to make up for historical neglect.
As FATA reforms continue to face resistance from political groups, some participants felt that the government had not included people from FATA in the committee or the provincial sub-committees. They added that in order to ensure that FATA reforms were implemented, it was necessary to ensure that the rights of the people of FATA were secured in any future merger. “Despite the establishment of a FATA Reform Committee, there is still no talk regarding the political inclusion of FATA in the 2018 election. Further, the government-appointed committee does not include any residents from tribal areas. Despite drafting a strong implementation mechanism for the development of tribal areas,” they said.
Ayaz Wazir also raised concerns regarding the lack of direct involvement from FATA in determining development projects outlined in the 10 year socio-economic development plan.