When we talk about FATA (federally administered tribal areas) the emotions which it stirs in urban Pakistan mainly are only related to anti-drones attack causing civilian casualties, fuelling terrorism and violation of our sovereignty. We have recently seen a popular political party raising the issue of Drones and performing dharna and ultimately closing NATO Supply lines going through Peshawar Torkam border. Going through newspaper and reading the comments of supporters of anti-drone policy, I initially felt that finally the romance of urban Pakistan with FATA ,and the narrative of portraying people from FATA as warriors race was over . The urban Pakistan living under 1973 constitution which provides them fundamentals rights like right to fair trial, right to freedom of speech, right to access to information, liberty, dignity, equal protection under law, privacy of the home, so on and so forth has finally recognised that People of FATA are vulnerable and, they are ready to own people of this region.
Of course my delusion was not for long. The most important question which has failed to capture the mind and discourse of our literate Pakistani” why is that region kept under deliberates political and social isolation. Why is the outrage over Drone debate not linked to FATA reforms and immediate streamlining into Pakistani society? For urban Pakistan FATA is their Achilles heel because it is the hub of all terrorism and how drone fuels terrorism. So drones must stop. Beyond that debate FATA is not exciting enough. I apologise for trying to question the moral indignation of the urban Pakistan over the drone debate. It is however not important for urban dharna participating crowd that FATA which comprises of seven political agencies along with FR areas remains Pakistan most poorest region, with 3.1 million population which according to unofficial estimate has reached over seven million . Nearly 66 % of the population lives below the poverty line. The region continues to be directly governed by Pakistan’s federal government through a special set of laws called the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a body of law based on six chapters, 64 sections three schedules. Article 247 of the 1973 constitution of Pakistan grants a special status to FATA, whereby no act of Parliament or the jurisdiction of the High /Supreme Judiciary is extendable to the region. A Body of rules FCR which guarantees no dignity of life and personal freedom to the people in the region. Literacy rate of FATA is only 17.42 %, compared to the national average of 40 %. Among women, it is 3 %, compared to the national average of 32 %. Per capita income is roughly $250, half the national average of $500 with a growth rate of 2.19 % only. With hardly 3% land holdings, FATA’s 50% population is dependent on trade activities with Afghan brethren on the other side of Durand line. FATA’s forbidding terrain further isolates tribal communities from markets, health and education services, and many outside positive influences. The above statistics places FATA in the Fourth world of the South. The tribal nature of the people portrayed in a manner, and its geography being deliberately used to keep the region militarised. Defending the honour of Pakistan state the tribal were encouraged to fight jihad in Kashmir 1948, since the fortress of Islam that is Pakistan was in danger .The people of FATA Trigger happy cavemen were the ideal character for providing human fodder from 1948 onwards to the current war on terror.. The biggest war theatre in FATA was enacted by our military establishment to fight the Islamic jihad in Afghanistan with petro dollars against the infidels of USSR . In 1979 FATA assumed special importance for our state when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Massive scale of jihad operation from human fodder recruitment to drugs factories started operating in the region conveniently. During Afghan War, more than 15,000 Arabs, Uzbek and Chechens were repatriated to and settled in FATA to fight holy war against the Soviets.
Also nearly 1,000 or so unregistered madrassas were established primarily in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), many of which preached jihad against infidels. The continuation of FCR by the Pakistan state made their various adventures possible in the region from 1948 militarisation to the ultimate disintegration of the Soviet Union to the current War on terror. There are roughly 21 left over Jihadi groups of 1979 and 39 sectarian groups operating in FATA. These jihadi now turned Taliban with different interest manipulate and control the local population .However thirteen peace agreements were signed between Taliban and government of Pakistan between the periods of 2007-9 without involving the local population at large. Normally in all these peace agreements signed with militant Taliban, people those sitting at Islamabad were taken on board and most of them lack understanding of local problems while dealing with these former jihadi now turned militants.To counter former jihadi military operation was initiated by state of Pakistan against the rouge Taliban .Pakistan Military has launched twelve major operations since 2002 against Taliban, Al-Qaida. These military operations have completely militarized/destroyed the social and economic life of FATA people. Presently military operations in tribal belt have led to the displacement of more than 3 million people. The largest displacement is from South Waziristan Agency where around 428,000 people are displaced. In summer of 2013, Pakistan military launched an operation in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency which resulted into huge exodus of more than 80,000 people. The military operations, Taliban take over have played havoc with already most improvised area of the region. Agriculture, forests .water resources and lakes have been ruined. More than 32% of the education institutions in the tribal areas of Pakistan have been destroyed in militancy. Along with education sector bombing of schools by Taliban, health sector has had major setback by targeting polio workers in the region. FATA has 41 hospitals for its seven million populations.
The whole debate on this war on terror has been dominated by very parochial, false and superficial discourse. All parties’ conference held by the Nawaz Sharif govt, which had participant from all major political parties in Pakistan, was a further disappointment. The conference called the tribal people as our own people but called for no immediate and drastic reforms in the region not even by those who championed the anti-drone policy. Urban Pakistan imagination is only caught up with one thing that how drones fuel insurgency and kill innocent people and it’s the cause of all terrorism. Let’s assume these leftover jihadi did not exist in the tribal region before drones, or are not responsible for the killing of more than 15 hundred tribal elders (Malik’s) killing, murder and rape of local people. Or maybe 1979 radicalisation of the area never happened. And we can deny that there are no Arabs Chechen Uzbek militants enjoying Pakistan state tattered sovereignty. Or maybe I keep on forgetting they are sitting in Alaqa ghair (territory which is outside the domain of civil PAKISTAN)
The debate can be bought off by someone who is trying not to see the whole picture. Maybe if Press and Media is allowed into the region we will get half of the ugly picture. But no press and media is allowed and under FCR the draconian laws no tribal can participate in national or international debate. We see No outrage on the poverty, inhumane laws operating in FATA let alone the deliberate militarisation under the pretext of Americanised jihad . If Pakistan is trying to own FATA by drones protests only than I regret to inform that there is more to FATA than just drones. Protesting against Drones can be good for one’s moral soul because it does causes civilian killing along with the likes of high profile terrorists but it won’t make the people of FATA Pakistanis.
1. Noreen Naseer, FATA, militarization & conflict. Living in War Zone, December 2013, JNU Delhi,
4. FATA Seminar Series, FCR Amendments: A way forward or hurdle for Peace and Development in FATA, March
Seminar Report April 2012, Islamabad