Good governance is a prerequisite for social harmony, public order, political stability, economic prosperity and certainty about future. It delivers the fruit of progress and development evenly to all and sundry. The key attributes of good governance are transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation and responsiveness but unfortunately as fata is concerned none of these attributes are in practice. The possible reason being the administrative system of the region.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas since the British Raj in Indo-Pak subcontinent have been and are still governed under a distinct set of rules called the frontier crime regulation 1901 coined after agreement between the British rulers and the tribes man. The unique status of FATA under FCR and the advent of militancy in the region have certainly deprived the tribal inhabitants from both political and economic mainstreaming.
With no proper courts, violation of basic human rights, lack of economic opportunities and absence of economic regulation, the federally administered tribal areas became a hub of black market and a persuasive arms and drugs trade. Likewise, the state’s failure to provide basic services and economic opportunities i.e. infrastructure, hospitals, education, irrigation facilities and electricity has further exacerbated poverty, which in turn has fueled militancy in the tribal region.
According to a study, the federally administered tribal areas have been and are still one of the most underdeveloped regions in the country, with 60% of its population living below the poverty line and an unemployment rate ranging between 60-80%. Similarly, only 62% of the FATA population is provided with electricity and on average the road density is 0.17 as compared to the national average of .26. Moreover the state of healthcare and education is also abysmal and the war on terror has further deteriorated the development indicators in FATA.
Although at present time it is the security situation that is impeding the developmental process in FATA, however, in real terms it is mainly the FCR that has been obstructing development process by limiting the freedom of choice. For instance, the political administration known as the uncrowned king has been enjoying unchecked financial powers, thus resulting in escalated corruption of the developmental funds meant for the tribal region leading to accumulation of wealth in hands of few people and widening the gap between the poor and rich rather than alleviating poverty. Although the auditor general is to audit the funds utilized by the political agent but up till now the desired results have not been achieved.
Likewise, the FATA Development Authority (FDA) was established in 2006 aimed at implementation of the developmental projects primarily to boost the public and private investment in the region; however, up till now it has been unable to achieve its desired objectives. The lack of cooperation between FATA Secretariat and FDA is another big hurdle after security situation to pursue development in the federally administered tribal areas. Likewise, in the past huge funds were allocated for the tribal regions, but due to lack of will and mismanagement these funds were never materialized for the prosperity of the region.
Similarly, the commercial banks are not allowed to operate in the tribal regions. In the absence of formal banking system, the informal banks exploit the locals by charging 100% interest annually and commercial contracts enforced by the local Jirgas under FCR are a disincentive for the investment in the tribal regions.
In 2003-2004, a few economic reforms were introduced in FATA for the economic prosperity of tribal region. For instance, the industrial estates were exempted from the jurisdiction of FCR to promote industrial development in the region. Similarly, in 2005, the US government also proposed Reconstruction Opportunity Zone (ROZ) for the economic prosperity of the region as 80% of the economy of FATA has been destroyed after 9/11. But up till now, no concrete measures have been taken for the establishment of ROZ in FATA. Likewise, in 2006 the Pakistani government in collaboration with US and other international organizations initiated a sustainable development program to enhance the socio-economic condition of the tribal regions. 2.46 billion $ dollars were pledged for a nine year sustainable development program with five year of actual development and four year of consolidating development with an aim to improve the literacy rate of FATA from 17% to 30-40% up till 2015. Unfortunately none of these programmes were implemented on ground and the government authorities reckon the deteriorating security situation in the region as a main hindrance for the utilization of the development funds rather the administrative flaws.
However, in Afghanistan which is also facing the dilemma of ongoing militancy and extremism the situation of development indicators have improved in the past few years. For instance the access to healthcare facilities has increased from 9% in 1996 to 65% in 2013. This might be due to the injection of huge amount of development funds from international community but huge amounts of funds were also allocated for the development of FATA. For instance the “sustainable development progrmme 2006-2015” but these funds were never materialized partly due to security situation and largely due to the administrative structure of FATA. As consequence the development indicators in FATA have further deteriorated.
Although in the past one decade political and legal reforms were introduced by the government of Pakistan for economic and political mainstreaming of Fata but these reforms were firstly not adequate and secondly were not properly implemented on ground. Therefore, it is vital to introduce and implement administrative and legal reforms for mainstreaming a FATA. For instance the introduction of local government system will help in transfer of power from the few elites to the masses at grass root level and will certainly help in political and economic mainstreaming
In nutshell it can be said the ad hoc system in FATA has been the core reason in marginalizing and depriving the locals from socio-economic prosperity while benefiting few tribal elites and Maliks. As a result, majority of the population of FATA is faced with the dilemma of absolute poverty, unemployment, lack of access to health facilities, information and judiciary. Therefore, adequate reforms should be introduced and implemented in FATA for the economic prosperity of the region.
The Author is a Researcher at FATA Research Centre, Islamabad.