Protest in FATA
Protest in FATA

FATA-KP merger exposes Pak duplicity-EFSAS

ANI | Updated: Jun 16, 2018 13:49 IST

Amsterdam [The Netherlands], June 16 (ANI): An Amsterdam-based think tank has said Pakistan's hasty decision to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), exposes both its duplicity and shallowness.
Warning that this merger will create more problems than it will solve, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said that the Sartaj Aziz-led five-member committee's move to assimilate FATA, has completely ignored the option of giving full provincial status to that area.
It also said that the committee has to be faulted for not seeking the opinion of the people of FATA before deciding on their future. It questioned Islamabad for not sharing operational details of the merger with the people of FATA.
"The shallowness and duplicity of Pakistan's position on Jammu and Kashmir, where it has no legal title or claim, has been harshly exposed in its handling of the fate of the five million people of FATA that are Pakistani citizens, albeit 'second class'," the EFSAS article said.
The FATA, it said, is a grossly under-developed and poverty-stricken Pashtun-dominated region of Pakistan, governed through a totally different, archaic and draconian law than the rest of the country.
The article further states that a bizarre system of administration has been remorselessly persisted with for more than 70 years.
"The ludicrous political and legal exclusion of the FATA naturally manifested itself in the region being systematically ignored in the spheres of economic development and investments, and the region suffered from horrendous socio-economic malaises," the EFSAS article states.
"The end result of decades of such exclusion is today starkly perceptible - 66 percent of the population of the FATA lives below the poverty line. This, when seen in conjunction with lax law enforcement and the support of the Pakistani intelligence agencies to terrorist organisations such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network that were sheltered in the region, explains why the FATA has been dubbed by observers as the most dangerous border region in the world," it adds.
"In pursuit of its own selfish gains, Pakistan (has) transformed the peaceful and culturally rich FATA into the focal point for Jihadists in 1979 when Pakistan became a proxy of the US in its war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The influx of thousands of militants into FATA gave rise to extremism and religious fundamentalism there. The Pakistani State radicalized and de-stabilized FATA when it suited Pakistan, only to subsequently commence military operations against the very militants that it had itself created. These operations adversely affected all spheres of life of the people of FATA, but the human cost they had to pay was most exacting - thousands of Pashtun tribesmen were killed and over two million displaced from their homes," the EFSAS article said.
However, supporters of the merger say that this long-overdue step could facilitate inclusion and a mainstreaming of the people of the region.
EFSAS counters by saying, "The reality of the present decision of the Pakistani government is that it is based primarily on narrow 'vote-bank' politics rather than any altruistic consideration towards the inhabitants of FATA. The general elections of 25 July are looming over the horizon and the Pakistan Army-backed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party appears to be presenting a stiff challenge to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N). The rushed manner in which the half-baked move was pushed through without obtaining the consent of the people of FATA betrays the real intention."
The merger has come in for severe criticism internally from diligent representatives of the Pakistan government, from representatives of political parties having direct stakes in the region, and most notably, from the tribal elders and leaders of the FATA.
Afghanistan, which does not recognize the Durand Line as the international boundary, has also expressed its strong objection to Pakistan's decision.
Muhammad Azam Khan, the Chief Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has also underlined several legal, constitutional and financial lacunae pertaining to the merger. His scathing censure of there being "no consensus for provision of finances.Transition without money is only paperwork" says it all.
Asad Qaiser, the Speaker of the KP Assembly, also communicated to the Speaker of National Assembly the protestations of FATA representatives against the end of the tax exemption so-far extended to the region.
Such disparagement by senior government functionaries clearly exemplifies the ham-handed manner in which the Pakistan government has decided the fate of five million people of the FATA.
Malik Salahuddin, a tribal elder from Kukikhel, has been quoted as saying that the merger will only result tribal culture being trampled upon on the advice of non-tribal people, who knew nothing about local administrative matters and customs.
He termed the merger as a "cruel and one-sided Constitutional Amendment".
Tribal elders of Mohmand Agency have also rejected the FATA-KP merger. At the press conference, Malik Ayaz Khan Haleemzai said that the Pakistan government had imposed the merger in haste and without the consent of the people of FATA.
He warned that "we the free tribesmen will never allow ourselves to be subjugated by the KP administration".
Perhaps the most incisive comments on the merger came from Zar Ali Khan Afridi, a Pashtun human rights activist, who said, "I am from FATA and reject this imposed decision of Pakistan parliament. FATA belongs to its people but they were deprived of their right. This is not merger. It is occupation. It is against international law and it is a violation of human rights.."
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), a former coalition partner of the PML-N government, also demanded a referendum to provide an opportunity to the tribesmen of the region to decide their future.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain signed the Constitution (Thirty-First) Amendment Bill, 2018 on May 31. Under the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Interim Governance Regulation, 2018, a set of interim rules will be applicable to the FATA until it is finally merged with KP province within two years. (ANI)