T

he idea behind the merger of borderland (FATA) was to integrate the war torn and ill-governed periphery with the settled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and bring reforms to address serious issues of justice, land disputes and governance. However, the amendments and reforms started by the previous governments and public pressure resulted in passing of the 25 amendment through speedy legislation that put the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in limbo and under tremendous pressure. Therefore, the urgency needed to address FATA’s legal, economic and administrative issues seems to be missing from the current government’s agenda. It is erstwhile FATA and now part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, scrapped FCR but replaced it with problematic Fata Interim Governance Regulations 2018; extended judiciary to the area but no presence of courts, Assistant Political Agent now Assistant Commissioner is holding the magisterial powers. It is ironic to see that outside the offices of former Political and Assistant Political Agents, the administration has not bothered to change the designation nor the old culture of the British Raj.

The most important aspect of the reforms is preparation of groundwork for the extension of judiciary and police; however, there is not much of concrete activity seen from the government. Presence of judiciary is important to address the problems such as revenue record, settlement of land disputes and human rights. No reform agenda will be viable in these border areas without extension of courts and judiciary along with the police to implement the decisions. High Court notification stands ineffective if there is no physical presence of the lower courts. Jirga was and is consider speedy justice system of the FATA but it failed to address disputes on lands due to proper mechanism of deterrence.

It is pertinent to have land and revenue record to generate the desired economic activity in the region. Although the reforms committee has proposed 3% share for erstwhile FATA in the National Finance Commission, however not much of enthusiasm has been shown by the other provinces. To deal with erstwhile FATA’s abyssal financial woes, revenue record is the most important aspect to give people the sense of ownership and also can draw loans from the banks. Verbally distributed lands, mountains of the tribe and sub-tribes are problematic issue for the banks and other economic firms to invest. The status of combined/collective ownership further complicates the property issues and its ownership, it is the high time to redistribute and let the local use their resources to develop their areas. British in Kurram and some parts of North Waziristan formed a revenue record, which is in Hindi language; however, the banks and investors were still reluctant to invest due to absence of legal system to protect them.

It is understandable that for the formation of revenue record and legal ownership of individuals on their lands, the presence of legal structure is imperative. Even access to a small plot of land can improve household welfare and act as a safety net. In situations where land has been expropriated during a colonial era, land reforms are generally economically and socially desirable, for example, tribes holding combined property have been successfully excluding women from the inheritance. Revenue record with legal enforcement gives enhanced investment incentives, reduced potential for conflict, the use of land as collateral, and improved equity through increased bargaining power among social groups that have been traditionally marginalised as is the case in FATA, where the elite has been exploiting even the combined land of shamailaat. However, if the state has no mechanism or capacity to ensure land tenure and enforce property rights or resolve conflicts over land, it will perpetuate the vicious circle of violence and poverty.

Land reforms substantiated by legal reforms can greatly benefit the most marginalised particularly household headed by the single women, which are a reality of war and militancy in erstwhile FATA. It is very important that judiciary should be a part of the land settlement and computerisation of the records or else patriarchal tribal structure facilitated the state, and it will continue to deprive the poor and women by giving legal cover to the illegally occupied landholders. If any economic activity in the region is planned without legal framework and regulatory laws, then not much can be achieved with the old colonial structure (Interim Regulation 2018), thriving on financial irregularities and corruption. Lest we forget nearly 30 million Indians died in its worst famine because of British colonial policies between 1875 and 1902, similarly the colonial structures and state apathy killed and displaced millions in FATA too. It is imperative to address the important periphery of Pakistan’s legal, and economic needs otherwise the present abyss and indecisive status of FATA or erstwhile FATA will create more hardship for the poor war torn tribes.

 

The writer is from Fata. She has a degree in

human rights from University of London.