ISLAMABAD - Adviser to PM on Foreign Affair Sartaj Aziz, who is also heading Fata Reforms Committee, briefed the prime minister on the meetings the committee had held with stakeholders over the past eight months.

He told that it has emerged from the wide-ranging consultations that there was a wide consensus on integration of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; however, tribal elders, except in Kurram, Bajaur and FR Peshawar, wanted to retain the present special status.

The different propositions that came under discussion in committee’s meetings with the stakeholders included:

(1): Maintaining status quo but introducing judicial/administrative reforms and increase focus on development activities.

(2): Creation of a Fata Council on the pattern of Gilgit-Baltistan.

(3): Giving Fata status of province.

(4): Integrating Fata with KP and giving each Agency the status of a separate district, and integration of FRs.

It was noted that political parties, youth, businessmen and other educated classes were clearly in favour of integration of Fata into KP and also argued for an extension of the writ of the superior courts. The tribesmen at the same time wanted to retain their identity by recognition of their tribal customs and the Jirga system under the new system.

They also advocated for a more gradual and phased approach to Fata reforms so that displaced people could return to their homes and smooth transition from post conflict situation to durable peace could be ensured.

There was virtually no support for a separate Fata province due to its geographic location, weak linkages between the Agencies and limited financial resources.

Similarly, the option of Fata Council, on the lines of the GB Council, also did not enjoy much support. It was emphasised that even as a transitional measure, it would create new vested interests that could block further reform and lead to the next logical demand of a separate Fata province.

The fourth option, i.e. Fata’s integration with KP was widely supported as it offered many advantages and was seen as the only rational choice for mainstreaming Fata, since the people of Fata will be able to elect their representatives for the Provincial Assembly of KP and expand opportunities for improved governance.

It was recommended that under the integration option the security infrastructure, including the strength and quality of Levies and other Law Enforcing Agencies will have to be improved and extended throughout Fata, making it easier for the armed forces to withdraw from its security role in Fata within 4-5 years.

Highest priority, after the restoration of peace, should be assigned to rehabilitation of the tribal people, reconstruction of tribal areas on a war footing and revival of livelihood activities.

The target date for return of TDPs should be end of 2016; the reconstruction phase should be completed before the end of 2018.

This gigantic task will require much larger financial resources and coordination between all the federal agencies including Safron, Fata Secretariat, the Army formations and FWO/NLC. A comprehensive rehabilitation and reconstruction plan has been launched by Fata Secretariat which should be synchronised with the above timelines.

Foreign donors can be invited to provide part of financial resources for the reconstruction plan.

The 10-year development program should include major infrastructure and irrigation projects, mineral development program and integrated plans for health, education including establishment of university, medical and engineering colleges, vocational training and industrial zones with special incentives.

A major aim of this 10-year program will be to bring Fata at par with the rest of Pakistan on the basis of all major economic and social indicators.

Fata Development Authority (FDA) may be reorganised with enhanced powers to implement large infrastructure projects under the 10-year Development Plan.

Around 30 percent of the allocation in the 10-year Plan should be channelled through the local bodies.

An important component of the new Development Plan would be the concept of social transformation of Fata through urbanisation by setting up modern urban hubs in all Agency Headquarters and other important trading centres.

All posts in Fata should be upgraded at par with KP. Salaries for the project personnel should be 20 percent higher than the project policy of KP.

Special incentives to private sector in education and health sectors should be given in the form of free land. Quota of Fata students in education and health institutions be doubled and retained for 10 years after integration.

SBP should be asked to encourage establishment of more branches of banks in Fata with special incentives for private banks.

Once the rehabilitation phase is completed, party based local bodies elections can be held in Fata before end of 2017. This would require promulgation of Fata Local Government Regulation, which should be formulated within three months. All other formalities e.g. updating the electoral rolls, finalising the constituencies, rules and regulations should be completed by the first quarter of 2017. A separate unit for Fata may be created in the Election Commission office, Peshawar for this purpose.