Despite strong opposition from Pakistan's bureaucracy and the military establishment, President Zardari unveiled a package for the strife-ridden Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) last week. Some say it is a bold and significant move while others argue that much more needs to be done to stop militancy in this area. The reforms announced by Zardari include changes to the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and an extension of the Political Parties Act to Fata, which will allow political activity in the region. For the first time, people of FATA will have proper political representation and the right to directly elect their representatives.
The FCR, which was in place for more than a century, restricted both political activity and personal freedom of the people of the area. It stripped tribal citizens of three basic rights - appeal, wakeel, daleel (the right to appeal their detention, the right to legal representation and the right to present reasoned evidence.) Under the unreformed FCR, the tribal areas were under the jurisdiction of the president through the provincial governor whose writ was established by powerful political agents.
It was the corruption and all encompassing powers of these agents that led to the rise in the popularity of militant organisations like the Tehreek-e-Taliban which challenged the status quo, say observers. FATA is now considered the base for many militant organisations and parts of the region are facing an army operation to rid it of Taliban control.
More needs to be done. Political analyst Khalid Aziz said any package must be part of a larger array of reforms based on creating private property rights, political empowerment, education and economic development of tribesmen. "Until this transformation is complete, safe havens and training camps are likely to remain in Fata," he added.
Now no person in FATA can now be deprived of their property without being provided compensation in accordance with market rates. This change restricts the government's powers of property seizure to the same extent in the tribal areas as in the 'settled' districts of Pakistan. Fata is currently represented by 12 members in parliament and 8 senators.