Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), an American clergyman and Nobel Prize Winner, once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. The situation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) truly mirrors these remarks. Primarily due to the Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR), the tribal belt today is a place where humanity is ridiculed on daily basis.
FATA is undergoing the worst kind of injustice since 1901 and has become all the more a death trap more than ever in the post-9/11 era. FCR is no less than a slap on the modern civilized world. Today some arm-chair analysts are critical of drone attacks and terrorism in the tribal belt but they have never paid any heed to the manifest flaws of, and flagrant human rights violations under, the FCR. They tend to ignore the fact that more than a century ago these hapless people were en masse subjected to a drone attack in the form of FCR. Had there been no FCR perhaps there would have been no sanctuary for the outlaws and, hence, the need for drone attacks.
Today the world and especially America would not have feared the next 9/11 if FATA society was not subjected to FCR. Moreover, No industrial zone was created in the past nor is there any such plan in the pipeline in the near future. On the other hand, the factory of radicalism and extremism was allowed to flourish by negligence and indifference to the plight of the area on part of the Pakistani authorities and subsequent US administrations for their vested interests. US is well after its enemies and interests in the region but it too is not playing its due role as the idea of the much-hyped Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs), has been shelved and put to the cold storage.
FATA has been “no-go area” for the political forces with the result that it turned out to be a mullahs’ constituency and a sanctuary for the extremists and their ‘guests’ in wake of especially the American support to the Jihadis against Communist Soviet Union.
The Awami National Party (ANP) has very stubbornly pursued the renaming of the province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but it has been apathetic to work for millions of inhabitants in FATA. It quit the coalition government of PML (N) back in 1997, on the issue of renaming but seems to have no intention to press its coalition partner, the incumbent federal government of PPP, to fulfill its pledge of abolishing the FCR. And what to speak of Maulana Fazlur Rahman; he even believes FCR as a good law. He, definitely, doesn’t like this hotcake (FATA) to be shared with other political contenders. The Rowlett Act, the “Black Law,” as it was dubbed subsequently, was out rightly condemned both by Jinnah and Gandhi when it was passed by the Imperial British in March, 1919 to suppress the Indians. “The fundamental principles of justice have been uprooted and the constitutional rights of the people have been violated at a time when there is no real danger to the state by an over fretful and incompetent bureaucracy which is neither responsible to the people nor in touch with the real public opinion,” Jinnah wrote to the Viceroy. However, it is more than hundred years now that ‘tribesmen’ have been enslaved but there is no political party across the country nor the so-called nationalists have felt any qualms to come out with an open agenda against this criminal “Black Law” of the 21st century.
The tragedy is not that the people of FATA are the worst victims of the war on terror but that there is none to speak for them. No one is there to take care of the looming deprivations and spiraling sense of alienation in the brave tribesmen, who fought the British, and the Russians but never dared to free themselves from the yoke of this British-implanted law. The British could be condoned for the injustices they meted out to the tribal belt for they were locked in the “Great Game” with its imperial adversary, the Tsarist Russia. But why this draconian law is still there even after over 63 years of independence seems simply mischievous and defies logic.
A surgical drone strike against the militants is not the solution. Something concrete must be done. If the world community is really sincere to save the world from the scourge of militancy and extremism, the tribesmen in FATA need to be compensated for their long-endured sufferings [largely because of FCR]and a holistic economic, political and administrative package should be offered to them. Such a holistic strategy will no doubt have a butterfly-effect. The writer is doing his PhD from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.