The Federally Administrated Tribal areas (Fata) merger bill was signed by the president after its passage from the upper and lower houses of the parliament and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, duly making Fata an integral part of KP province.

However, little do most know about the various contours and dimensions of this esoteric process. For the consumption of the general public, Fata today has become part of KP, where the same rules, regulations and procedures of public engagement shall now be promulgated which are being exercised all across the country and the province in particular.

At the ground level however, things are quite contrary to popular belief, for the people who believe that with the passage of this bill roses will start blooming in the rugged landscape of the tribal agencies and the people will be liberated of every hardship they ever had to face under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) are set to be utterly disappointed.

Beyond the painfully slow process that is bound to start after this promulgation, the people of Fata region will only see an increase of their representative National Assembly seats in 2023 and shall be given a tax exemption just for the next five years under the TORs of this bill.

Furthermore, the most appalling feature of this whole transition is the Fata Interim Governance Regulation, 2018. That is to serve as an interim system of governance and administration of justice in Fata until the merger is completed, the most striking features of this regulation prove to be somewhat of a spitting image of the FCR.

In the definition clause 2(f) the “judge” is referred to as the Assistant Commissioner of the Tribal District, who is to exercise the powers vested in him under the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 and this regulation in particular. These powers in addition to the powers of District Magistrate of the First Class as specified in clause 7(2) are the same as those vested in the Assistant Political Agents of the past that were the hallmarks of the oppressive FCR.

The sustenance of “Rewaj” and the Jirga system through the ‘Council of Elders’ has also been maintained under the clause 2(c)(g)(h) and particularly under clauses 10, 13 and 15, which happened to be the key features of the FCR.

Moreover, clause 12 of the regulation categorically declares that “no Civil Court shall have Jurisdiction to call in question the legality of anything done … in respect of any matter, the cause of action whereof has arisen in Fata”. Restricting the role of modern judicial apparatus in the region and increasing reliance on the notorious rewaj and jirga.

This also gives blanket cover in addition to the already provided indemnity to the administration and the subordinate staff acting in the region, with the right to appeal of a convict relying on the Commissioner or Additional Commissioner ‘only’ if so authorised by the Governor of KP under clause 31.

As a result of which, the appellate authority may grant a pardon or even ‘enhance’ any sentence after issuance of show cause notice under clause 32 of the regulation or give enhanced punishments including six months’ imprisonment for a ‘false proclamation’ by the appellant under clause 38.

Furthermore, under clause 28(a) of the regulation any private person can without an order or warrant from the administration, take any person to the post of local administration upon whom he has a reasonable suspicion of committing a cognizable offence or against whom a complaint has been made. Which gives a new dimension to the notion of public vigilantism that was only previously known to be found in the FCR.

Clauses 25 and 26 of the regulation declare that there shall be prohibition of building any new hamlet, village, tower or walled enclosure without the previous sanction of the Deputy Commissioner who may either grant or refuse such sanction. Also, the Governor shall have the power to order the relocation of a village situated in close proximity of the frontiers of Islamic Republic of Pakistan with compensation by a written order. The penalty for not doing so may extend to one year imprisonment and a hundred thousand rupees fine.

Finally, the regulation proclaims in clause 52 sub clause 2 that the provisions of this regulation shall remain in force until complete merger of Fata with KP and shall continue to remain in force until altered, repealed or amended by an Act of the Provincial Assembly of KP.

The Fata Interim Governance Regulation surely gives an insight to the bleak image of what really has happened under the joie de vivre of the much exaggerated Fata reforms that have made the people of Fata move on from one oppressive regulation to another.

With the long promised tabdeeli only limited to the title of these regulations, an ordinary citizen can merely wonder how many more years or decades it will take for a new political will and consciousness to arise and bring about the necessary alterations, amendments to this regulation from the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.