May 13 turns out to be a great day for people of former Federal Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, commonly known as FATA. The passage with near consensus of a new Amendment to the constitution – enhancing the seats of ex FATA territories from 16 to 24 in the provincial parliament of the North-Western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province – marked a stupendous constitutional transformation of ex FATA regions. These regions used to be known as “no go areas” less than a year ago.
It was on May 31, 2018, that the process of FATA mainstreaming had climaxed with a federal government notification, which repealed the British colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and declared tribal agencies as tribal districts and changing the nomenclature of Political Agents to that of deputy commissioners as a prelude to the tribal regions’ merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Elections in the seven new districts are due in early July. The journey for ex-FATA’s residents in one year has not been less than a roller-coaster, which has now placed these regions – constitutionally at least – at par with the rest of Pakistan. The new legislation will now double the seats from the region to 12.
“We are determined to whole-heartedly work for the socio-economic development of the new districts. This is our national duty”, Prime Minister Imran Khan told the parliament as MPs voted the constitutional amendment. For decades, demands for mainstreaming of FATA and the repeal of the colonial draconian laws fell on deaf ears. Former US president Barack Obama had had once dubbed former border regions as the “world’s most dangerous place.” These regions were also called, by many “orientalist” writers and journalists as “Pakistan’s Wild West”.
But Pakistan’s crackdown against non-state actors in the region, particularly since a gruesome terrorist attack on an army school in Peshawar in December 2014, and the string of constitutional moves to extricate tribal districts from the clutches of the colonial FCR, have now paved the way for the political mainstreaming and socio-economic development of the region that borders Afghanistan.