Determining status of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the Federal Structure and the government was rather overdue. The task before the FATA Reforms Committee (FRC) is sensitive and difficult. But it has to be undertaken to ensure the development of the FATA in line with settled units of the country and to create an enabling culture for peace, civility and national integration. FATA is already represented in the two houses of the parliament but much more is required to be done to guarantee greater participation of the people of FATA in the management of the affairs of this strategically important unit of Pakistan. The change has to be brought about gradually according to the Psychy of the people, traditions and history of conventions and socio-political environment that has prevailed over a long long time, having resulted into lessons to learn for a way forward.

Strategic location of FATA was of immense significance. That means the direct control of federal government was essential till such time that FATA starts functioning as a meaningful and dynamic unit of the state and fulfils all conditions that a state requires under the constitution, the conditions that other units: Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and KP satisfy. One of the requirements is payment of taxes. So far no such thing is operative in FATA. The resourceful and those who claim the ownership of precious natural resources of the strategic unit are making good money which could be taxable. Furthermore, FATA will have to generate revenues of its own for which a system of governance and good management practices would be required.

Under the present circumstances the authority of federal government was essential. It could neither be surrendered nor delegated. Later, under the reforms package FATA could have its own authority and powers plus the powers of the federal government devolved and delegated to it. The most feasible nature of reform that FRC could consider will have to be administrative organization and reorganization to bring about improvements in the systems and styles of governance that has been in place historically to regulate the relationships in the society basically of tribal people and tribal customs, values, mores and folkways. Reforms committee has to be of people with authority commensurate with responsibility and the sensitive nature of the task before them.

The task involves readjustments in the social order, negotiating and redefining authority relationships and working out new organizational structures and functions within administratively reformed FATA under the direct control of the federal government. Complete abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would not be advisable in one go. This may be undertaken in stages after a serious study, keeping in view most sensitive aspects of the FCR and the implications of changes that are introduced step-by-step. The most appropriate action would be to introduce laws that support the adoption of the District Administration System that already exists in settled districts in rest of the country.

The reforms committee formed by the Prime Minister will have to ensure availability of optimal facilities and socio-economic infrastructure that makes life good for the masses. Inequalities that clearly exist in FATA under the current system have to be removed. Tribal leaders have to adopt and adapt to a democratic system free of exploitations. They have to be taken on board along with the masses who are the major stakeholders. Their participation in the decision-making process is of vital importance.

A fully representative FATA reforms process that satisfies all stake holders will have to be open in character and inclusive of debate on all possible issues and problems that could crop up at the time of implementation of all decisions and the ownership of the whole process leading to a healthy and positive reform and institutions building. Putting FATA in its place means giving it recognition and accepting its status as an administrative unit that could make its own decisions and show its representation at the national level in a meaningful way success of National Action Plan and War against terror depends on willing cooperation of the people of FATA.

Although participation of leaders and the people of FATA in this exercise leading to reforms is important from the view point of the ownership of decisions and implementation, yet an objective view is expected to emerge from analysis by outside experts who can look at things dispassionately and without bias. Vested interests could always distort and create unnessary confusion and consequent delays and indecision.

Pakistan needs democracy and a focus on political development. Just as the ‘informal’ aspect is as important to an organization as the ‘formal’ one, the ‘informal’ part of the political system is crucial to bureaucracy’s sense of direction. The problem is that political parties and interest groups have not put out platforms and objectives seeking to enlist the support of the populace. The result is a situation far from popular democracy. The challenge then is to provide an orientation of sub-servience to bureaucracy that reflects respect and dedication to look to the legislature for prescribing its tasks. It is this continuing relationship that fosters political development.

The basic need of sound government is the continuous relation of existing structures (and their capacity to change) to suit as far as possible meaningful national aspirations. Stability is often given as the reason for bestowing instruments of power to the bureaucracies. Outcome of such an approach is a ‘law and order’ bureaucracy, pushing development concerns to secondary importance. While thinking of FATA reforms we, need to give top priority to ‘development concerns’ and the people taking ownership of such a process through collective wisdom and self-reliance and self-help. Needed structures and functions have to be created where the same do not exist already. There is no question of merging FATA with KP. New authority structures will have to be created in FATA to perform expected new roles/functions.

Authority conferred by the society on any individual or institution is a sacred trust. No authority is any one’s birth right. Similarly, no institution acquires any authority just by virtue of its name. Even courts cannot exercise jurisdiction not vested in them by law. Section 175(1) of the constitution thus states: There shall be a Supreme Court of Pakistan, High Court for each Province and such other courts as many be established by law. The courts should always be used as the last resort. It is the duty of every state functionary to uphold the rule of law. Incase of negation of the principle of rule of law the power of the courts has to be invoked. Only an honest, independent and competent judiciary can uphold the rule of law. Only that justice is justice which is in accordance with law. What worries most is the variability of the concept of justice.

It will be a welcome change in Pakistan when the rule of law is upheld in FATA with the establishment and jurisdiction of courts under the constitution. Our society should recognize the rule of the law beyond theory and see to it that everybody is equal before the law irrespective of socio-economic status.