The State Of Tribal Districts 3 Years After The Merger With KP Province
The day of 31 May 2021 will complete three years since the FATA merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On this historic day, former President Mamnoon Hussain signed the 25th Constitutional Amendment draft making the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Now that the three long years have passed, what changed in the seven newly merged districts?
Before the 25th Constitutional Amendment, the FATA affairs were administered under Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) also known as black law introduced by the British with the aim to control the frontier areas. For decades the tribal people had been demanding to abolish the FCR. In 2015, Student Union from Tribal districts started an organized peaceful campaign against the FCR, although many tribal elders and a few political parties were against the merger.
The former PMLN Federal government decided to bring reforms in tribal areas. In the proposed draft it was mentioned that reforms would be implemented in ten years. During the merger process, promises were made. The people of tribal districts have many concerns that remain unaddressed.
The tribal elders, Federal, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments have their own claims. The slow progress on developmental projects, lack of improvement in health and education and security issues in Waziristan are the main concerns of the tribal people. On the other side, the government claims that they are giving special priority to newly merged districts. It is a reality that everything is not OK in tribal districts, but let me point out what has changed in the past three years.
It is not true that no progress has been made in the seven tribal districts, but it is also a reality that the locals are not satisfied with the implementation of the ongoing projects. There are positive changes on the ground but need a balance between government’s political statements and actions.
Some ground realities in the tribal districts are: the judicial system has been extended. Courts and bars are delivering, although they are facing problems like the non-availability of proper offices. All the local administrations are cooperative and trying to accommodate different departments shifting to tribal districts. The government is releasing funds for infrastructures, and so the proper setup will take time.
To control the law and order situation, police have been assigned new duties, 28,000 Khasadar, and Levies forces have been merged in the police. They are getting training. New police stations have been established, and the law and order situation is improving. There remain many challenges in this regard and it would take time to control security.
A big achievement was the provincial assembly elections in the seven tribal districts. For the first time, the tribal people elected their representatives for the KP assembly. Moreover, the Election Commission of Pakistan has announced local bodies’ elections to be held in September 2021. It would be a major development after the merger.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has extended its flagship program “Sehat Sahulat” to the tribal districts. The Health Insurance is worth one million rupees per family per year for 60 lac families.
Due to the prolonged militancy in the tribal districts, there are fewer employment and business opportunities, which is a big challenge for the current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. The government has opened Angoor Ada in South Waziristan, Ghulam Khan, North Waziristan and Kharlachi, and a border crossing with Afghanistan in Kurram tribal district. The reopening of the border with Afghanistan in tribal districts will create business opportunities for the locals.
The decision of opening Torkham Border for 24 hours was a positive step. Recently, the tribal Jirga in Mohmand has demanded to reopen the Gorsal Pass at Pak-Afghan border. The reopening of border crossing with Afghanistan in five tribal districts will create more jobs and business opportunities for tribal people. In this regard, the completion of Khyber Pass Economic Corridor (KPEC) by the World Bank is crucial. It connects Pakistan and Afghanistan with Central Asia through Khyber Pass. For hundreds of years, traders had used this route for trade.
Different government departments and authorities have been shifted to tribal districts. Rescue 1122, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Food Safety and Halal Authority, Directorate General of Information & Public Relations (DGIPR) and many others will start official work over the time. The Information Department is establishing seven FM community Radio Stations – in Bajaur, Mohamand, Khyber, Kurram, North and South Waziristan – four of the Radio Stations have launched their test transmission. Radio is a very effective medium of communication. The aim of these Radio stations is to educate, explain the role of newly shifted government departments and mainstreaming the tribal community.
Communication, road infrastructure, and the 4G service is still a big challenge. Due to Corona pandemic, universities and colleges are conducting online classes and students from the tribal districts are facing issues due to non-availability of internet facility. However, there has been a major development in the telecom sector; till July 2021 at least 250 new Mobile towers of different cellular companies will be erected across all tribal districts. The work on installation process is underway. In Bajur and South Waziristan districts, the 4G services have been launched and the government is planning to resume the service in the remaining five tribal districts.
Many telecom and other development projects have been delayed due to landmines in parts of tribal districts. The security forces are working on de-mining; it is a difficult task and will take time. The experts have demanded that the government should establish a special unit in Peshawar for regular monitoring and implementation of post-merger reforms. The merger of the tribal areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a process and will take time due to limited resources of the government.