Islamabad, Apr 23: The tribal people demanded immediate extension of local governments system to tribal territories to mainstream the Federally Administered Tribal Areas both politically and socially with rest of the country.
This was the crux of a Study Report titled “Local Government in FATA: Past Failures, Current Challenges and Future Prospects” launched by FATA Research Center at a local hotel here on Tuesday.
The report is prepared after conducting extensive surveys, interviews and round tables conferences with different stakeholders including tribal people, elders, political and legal experts, academia, media men and government officials.
Speaking at a launching ceremony as a chief guest, Federal Minister for State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt Gen ® Qadir Baloch, said the findings of the report are manifesting the fact that tribal people are politically aware and demanding participation in affairs of the state through democratically elected bodies.
The minister elaborated that we haven’t yet decided about the date of conducting local bodies elections in entire of Pakistan and will introduce the local government system in FATA before its election process.
“Our government is determine and will introduce the local government system in FATA quite earlier than local bodies’ elections across the country”, said the minister for SAFRON.
Referring to the consensus over introduction of local governments, Gen Baloch said the government is cognizant to the demand of tribesmen and women and their desire to mainstream the tribal regions.
“We will cover the decade’s long state and tribal society vacuum in FATA through the introduction of local government system in the belt”, added the minister.
The report while focusing on the prospects of local governments in FATA, examines constitutional rights of tribal people to self-governance and analyzes relevance of devolution of powers in today’s democratic era. According to the report people in FATA considered the century old system of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) as irrelevant and wanted independent, democratic and responsible local governance system that can satisfy their needs.
Speaking on the occasion, Senator Farhatullah Babar said, participatory development is possible only when powers are delegated on lower level.
He agreed with finding of the report that only delegation of powers from top to bottom could break the status quo in FATA and put the war-ravaged region on track to progress and prosperity.
The study revealed that majority of experts and tribal elders agreed on three tiers of local government system i.e. union council, tehsil council and agency council. Some of the Tribal elders and political leaders, however; believed that prevailing LG system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could be best suited if implemented properly in FATA as – they argued – situation in adjoining districts of KP is no way different to that of adjoining tribal agencies.
Ibrahim Shinwari – a senior tribal journalist – while speaking at the ceremony said that study has rightly pointed out that the enormous powers enjoyed by the political agent had no relevance in today’s democratic era.
Tribal people have demanded delegation of powers from political administration with regard to nominating official jargas to local governments and rectification of jarga decisions by representative of national judicial system of a district magistrate level.
“I believe with the introduction of local government system in FATA, enormous powers of political agent will be curtailed that will, at end, benefit the local people of FATA”, said Mr. Shinwari.
The study said tribal people are also critical of enormous financial powers of political agents and demanded that the huge amounts of un-auditable funds and other allocation through Annual Development Program (ADP) or elected MNAs and Senators be routed through local governments in FATA.
Tribal people wanted abolishment of authoritarian powers of political agents and restricting political administration to affairs of administration particularly law and order and security.
The study refers to lack of effective service delivery system and poor governance structure that has led to widespread frustration resulting into trust deficit between state and the society.
The new local government bodies be empowered to frame laws, policies and regulations for housings, schools, employment, social security, health, arts, culture, sports, local public transport, water, energy and regional planning as these services are directly affecting lives of people, says the report.
To make the system financially viable, the report argued that funds collected through general sales tax (GST), 30% share of federal government, considerable amount of funds diverted from the funds of MNAs and Senators; taxes collected by political administration and FATA’s share in Annual Development Program (ADP) and National Finance Commission (NFC) would be enough to make the system run.
Earlier in his opening remarks, President FATA Research Centre (FRC) Dr. Ashraf Ali, said extension of local government system can be a right step towards mainstreaming the tribal areas. He said if extension of local government system in FATA is the demand of the tribal people, political parties as well as the government then what stops us from implementing the system in the sparsely governed tribal regions.
FRC is a non-partisan and non-political research organization based in Islamabad. It’s the first ever think-tank of its kind that focuses on Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in its entirety. The purpose of FRC is to help the concerned stake holders better understand this war-ravaged area of Pakistan with independent research and analysis