Will Fata ever be developed? - Ayaz Wazir - Saturday, March 17, 2012

Source : http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-98117-Will-Fata-ever-be-developed

Nothing can be more absurd and farther from the truth than the rhetoric regarding development of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in order to bring it at par with the rest of the country. Every dignitary visiting Fata promises this but nothing happens thereafter. This is what the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has said in an address to a jirga of selected maliks at Ghallanai in Momand Agency, as reported in The News on March 9. Another news item in the same paper belittles his claim when describing the dismal condition of a hospital in North Waziristan. He should have paid more attention to the hospital than making empty promises to develop the tribal areas.

The hospital suffered heavy losses when security officials blew up a nearby building in the main market of Miran Shah in retaliation for a rocket fired by a miscreant from that direction.

Upon the written instructions of the prime minister for remedial measures an inquiry committee was constituted which, after thorough investigation, sent its report recommending immediate steps for repairs to the hospital. A period of more than four months has passed since then but no action has been taken so far, despite availability of funds under the account of that tribal agency. Let us not forget that since it is the main general hospital in the area the entire population is dependent on it for medical treatment.

A lukewarm reaction like this compels people to believe that government functionaries responsible for administration of that area are not bothered to resolve their problems. Their hesitation to mix with the people and sharing of facilities that are available to them with the tribesmen have deprived these functionaries of opportunities to acquire firsthand knowledge of their sufferings. Facilities available to them are totally different from what the local inhabitants can have. When he requires medical attention an official is flown to better hospitals elsewhere in the country, whereas a local needing similar facilities is refused, very often, travelling by road in the name of security hazards.

Rules for them are made by others, like the much trumpeted reforms where the FCR has been slightly amended and the Political Parties Act extended to the tribal areas. But that was done another draconian rule under the name of Regulation in Aid of Civil Power was imposed on Fata, which has rendered the reforms meaningless.

It is not that the tribesmen could not elect representatives to parliament, or faced other problems in the conduct of elections there. They had the right to vote and were electing representatives on the one-man-one-vote basis, right from 1997 when adult franchise was extended to that area. The real problem that they face is that after electing members to parliament where, under Article 247(b) of the Constitution they are not allowed to make laws for the area that they represent. This prerogative is that of the president alone. Unless he agrees to share it with them in the parliament they will not be able contribute. Not will those who are going to be elected on party basis in the coming elections.

Fata cannot be developed simply by repeating pledges. The tribesmen have heard them so often that the promises have lost their meaning for them. They do not take it seriously any more. They see it as a joke when uttered by a dignitary addressing jirgas like the one in Ghallanai.

The governor, being an agent of the resident for Fata, is supposed to give him advice in the best interest of the people of that area, which unfortunately is not the case when one looks at the implications of the Regulation in Aid of Civil Power imposed there. The regulation took away whatever little rights were available to the tribesmen under the draconian clauses of the FCR. One wonders how he will return to the legal profession and what the barrister will do with his law degree when the regulation chases him to the bar after coming to an end of his term as governor of that area. Will he call it off now or tender an apology to the people of Fata, only time will tell.

Another important factor that contributes to the backwardness of Fata is the absence of civil government in that areas after 9/11. One cannot recall a single visit by a senior government functionary to the area, let alone the president or the prime minister, to assure the people of government support. It has left everything to the army to look after. Even civil projects like construction of roads, schools and colleges are done by the army. The civil leadership does not bother to come forward for inauguration of these projects, like they do elsewhere in the country.

Their claims of undertaking developmental projects before 9/11, or by the army now, will be an overstatement. No doubt the army has constructed some roads and opened schools and cadet colleges in the area, but that is the only face of the government there. In any case, if looked at with a cool mind and judged with a sense of responsibility, this was the tribesmen’s due and it should have been done long before during the past 64 years.

Experiments of inefficient rulers have destroyed Fata more than developing it in any sense. The reasons are simple. There is no involvement of the local people in the policymaking process or in administering that area. They have not experienced a government of the type that we see in the settled areas where local MPAs and MNAs become ministers or part of the government machinery for smooth running of the administration there. In Fata the system of governance is conducted by government servants. Unless this attitude is changed and local people are included in the policymaking process and running of the administration, development will remain a far cry.

This unfair treatment has forced the people of that area to demand that Fata should be made a province so that its people have a government of their own like elsewhere in the country, and develop their area on a fast track. Only they can Fata come at par with the rest of the country.

In case that was not acceptable then the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa should be selected from Fata to give the tribesmen their due. And even if that was somehow not possible, then a separate governor for Fata should be appointed to address their sense of deprivation. Short of this, the rest is simply political gimmickry and will have no impact on development of the area or the people there.

The writer is a former ambassador who hails from FATA. Email: waziruk@hotmail.com

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