The question of FATA administrative future has been in Pakistan media, discussion and debate particularly post Pakistan military operation Zarb Azab in North Waziristan. The current debate has been oscillating between the abolition of FCR (1901) operating and functioning in the federally administrated tribal area of Pakistan, to its complete mainstreaming, reforms or granting it the status of provincially administrated tribal area (PATA).
FATA is the most impoverished region of Pakistan where the majority of the population lives in rural areas. According to the official record, FATA total population is 3.17 million, in which female population is 1.5 million, almost making women half of the population in FATA.The literacy rate is 17 percent against the national average of 40 percent while female literacy is less than 3 percent. Finally, we hear about these figures and extreme impoverishment of militancy infested FATA in Pakistan more frequently now, and how the time is ripe after more than 68 years to do away with its special constitutional status.
The debate of mainstreaming or bringing about Reforms in FATA, one comes across all sorts of opinion and suggestion. However for a longer period of time, the cultural relativists have dominated and advocated the so-called independent status of Tribal areas, the continuation of tribal Jirga ( council of elders) retaining its Riwaj Dastoor (local tradition and culture), Political agent office and FCR as administrative mechanism best suited to the needs of the area. However, they want to amend controversial articles of the existing law,while keeping the existing state of affairs intact because they don’t want the culture and traditions of the tribal people damaged through outside enforced reforms. The normally beautiful expression used by such group that FATA status should be decided according to the will and aspiration of people living in the area. However the will and aspiration most conveniently skip half of the population, women in this lofty debate. A society’s deeply embedded cultural configuration which does not accept the basic right of her education, right to divorce, marriage and most importantly her right to property.
This debate has made women worst causality of the state along with social and personal oppression.
. She is oppressed by the state where FCR like oppressive colonial laws operate and has no space for her. Only one section (30) dealing with women regarding adultery, although it is unknown why this section was added. Section 30 of FCR states that a woman (married) involved in a physical relationship would be fined and imprisoned up to five years on the complaint of her husband. Her fate has been left to be decided by a mechanism of Jirga or council of elder however she has no such representation in the setup. . There are no other tribunals available to women issues, the only available one is FCR, which also lacks clarity and Jirga that support and strengthen men’s centric decisions only.
Her Personal oppression because of the prevailing patriarchal culture, norms and selectively religiously incited edicts used against her
According to all the cultural relativists Culture, traditions are the sole source of the validity of a moral right or rule to subjugate or guide FATA women existence. Cultural relativists hold that tribal traditions are exempt from legitimate criticism by outsiders, a concept that is strongly supported by notions of communal autonomy and self-determination. The concept of independent and free tribesmen’s of FATA till date advocate their cultural superiority and not to temper with their tradition particularly when it comes to women in FATA. Most of the advocate would proclaim while the mainstream Pakistan offer fundamental human rights and rule of law like courts, their actual practice throws that commitment into question. So we are better off under a system which is just and speedy like Jirga (however they tend to forget that it’s not a just system since half of the population are kept out of it or have no representation in it. Women are not represented in the jury or justice system in the tribal area
To both the state and personal oppression I have my own complicated relations with, and I know when one aspect open an opportunity for women in FATA another one can easily override and cancel it. And I will read remarks on this article as NGO sponsored article written by someone propagating western agenda. The abrogation of the old colonial system makes some of the cultural relativist very nervous in FATA, and they fear that by streamlining the system our personal issues would be made political and public. How can we tolerate our women going to courts asking for a divorce one advocate says!. Most of them see inequality of sexes and defends it as divinely ordained. . Islam which appears in the form of local cultural practices justified in religious terms, the cultural practices authenticity is rarely looked at or explained. The tribal society entrenched in culture traditional laws usually overrides Islamic laws, which are only used only selectively or adapted in accordance with cultural traditions.
Govt sponsored laws like FCR and political agent office claims the monopoly on the threat of violence or use of violence, but state claim on violence in FATA is illegitimate since it uses oppressive and unjust laws. The enforcement of laws in FATA is the case of oppressive state-sponsored violence. The women of FATA invisibility and oppression are made stable and accepted by the administrative unit operating in FATA.
Cultural or religious reasons along with patriarchal ideology dominate the region. FATA women face extra obstacles that prevent them even from struggling against their own oppression. Even the current debate which has caught on in Pakistan media about mainstreaming FATA has no aspect of inserting gender into the social transformation of the tribal set up. The Pakistan Govt formed committee to look at the reforms in FATA has no female representation. It seems the govt is not looking at the reforms mainstreaming from gender balanced approach and treating women as the invisible entity in FATA.