Peace and Democracy in Pakistan`s Tribal Areas
Zahid Anwar

A two-day workshop on ‘The Role of Peace and Democracy in the FATA‘ [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] was held at the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar on 12-13 March 2008. The German Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad and the ASC jointly organized the workshop in which former officers from the political administration of tribal areas, security specialists, Maliks (tribal leaders), diplomats, journalists and research scholars participated.

Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, Director of the Area Study Centre, welcomed all the guests and in his paper discussed internal and external threats to Pakistan. Richard Asbeck, Resident Representative of the Hanns Seidal Foundation, talked about the 15 years of collaboration between the two institutions.

Khalid Aziz, former Chief Secretary of the NWFP, said we were encouraged to adopt a separatist way of life by eulogizing Pukhtunwali, the Pashtun code. This kind of thinking kept the NWFP, FATA and PATA aloof from the mainstream development and fossilized Pukhtuns like Egyptian mummies, and the Pukhtun region became a fertile ground for movements with a global agenda. Pakistan is a casino economy, the U.S. is the most frequent user of this casino, and we draw all money after play. There is no development without democracy. The Pashtun-majority province is called NWFP as if no human being lives there. FATA and NWFP have no identity, and in the absence of identity, development is highly unlikely.

Brig. (Ret.) Mahmood Shah, Former Secretary of the FATA, stressed the introduction of democracy in the FATA and working out an administrative system which copes with democracy. No development or democracy will take place until the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) is amended or removed. Everybody agrees that something should be done, but there is a lack of consensus on the mechanism.  The best way to change the system is to go with it and gradually change it. The issues should be addressed through tribal traditions.

Mr. Abuzar, a security specialist, in his comments said that FATA‘s current problems are closely related to the war on terror and the broader Afghanistan problem. Pashtuns are labeled as pro-Taliban and pro-terrorists. There is a perception among the people that Pakistan is fighting a war on behalf of others. The social development component is missing.

Prof. Ijaz Khan said that the FATA system is the legacy of a colonial mindset. The FATA problem is not just related to the Afghanistan problem, but also closely connected to governance in the settled areas. People in the FATA have changed with the passage of time by receiving education, obtaining employment in the Middle East, and with the war in Afghanistan. For the success of democracy, the existence of certain conditions are essential, and those condition should be provided so that democracy takes root in the FATA. In the last 60 years, we have left a vacuum for extremists to come and exploit the situation.

Col. (Ret.) Yakub Masod from Waziristan said that the Government writ has vanished in Waziristan. More than 300 pro-Government Maliks have been killed. It is difficult to fight those who seek death. Pakistani retired ambassador Ayaz Wazir, also from Wairistan, said that before 9/11, the FATA were more peaceful than the settled areas of the country. The youth is unemployed, and need employment, education, health services, playgrounds. Yahya Effendi in his paper pointed out that we can learn from British India‘s policy in the FATA. Prof. Sarfraz said that the special status of the FATA is the root cause of the problem.

Samina Afridi in her paper pointed out the absence of women in the whole system of FATA. The whole population except Maliks, smugglers, drug barons, and criminals are victims of the system. Ahmad Ali, from the Civil Secretariat in Peshawar, discussed the Sustainable Development Plan for FATA. He said that development projects in FATA in the past were focused on physical infrastructure rather than human resource development.

Wali Khan, a Lawyer from the FATA, in his paper focused on the FCR and proposed the extension of Local Government Ordinance to FATA. He said the powers of article 199 (fundamental rights) of the 1973 constitution should be given to the FCR Tribunal and that the judiciary should be separated from the executive branch.

In the discussion, it was noted that the role of Political Agent in the FATA administration is much criticized, but its positive role must not be neglected. There is a need for a focal person in the agency. Though there may be much criticism, 80 percent of FATA inhabitants support the government‘s policy. The fabric of society is not broken. Women have problems in the FATA, while addressing their problem one should keep in mind the dichotomy between the western view, which considers the individual as the unit while the Muslim view regards the family as the unit.

It was also said that Pukhtunwali is not a barrier in the development of Pashtun society. The whole tribal system revolves around a Jirga system; if that is removed, there will be chaos. The remedy is gradual reforms, consistent with checks and balances in the system. Since there is no policing mechanism in the FATA, so before extending the constitution to the FATA it is essential to develop a policing mechanism. People change with education, socialization and development.

First published in the CACI Analyst on April 2, 2008: