FATA Reforms Committee's Report

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ISLAMABAD (APP): The report presented to Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif by the FATA Reforms Committee will be made public to elicit further debate and discussion towards developing a national consensus on its recommendations.

The report about reforms in FATA was discussed in a meeting held here Wednesday to review implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), a statement from the PM House said.

According to details available with APP, a 5-member FATA Reforms Committee, headed by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz after holding meetings with parliamentarians from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), tribal elders and all stakeholders has recommended four basic options for reforms but there is a wide consensus on merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The four options are:

Maintain status quo but introduce judicial/administrative reforms and increase focus on development activities.

Create FATA Council on the pattern of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Create a separate province of FATA.

Integrate FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, each agency becoming a separate district and FRs integrated.

It emerged from the wide ranging consultations undertaken by the committee, that there was a wide consensus on integration of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however tribal elders except in Kurram, Bajaur and FR Peshawar, wanted to retain the present special status.

It may be noted that political parties, youth, businessmen, educated classes were clearly in favour of integration of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and also argued for an extension of the writ of the superior courts.

Secondly, tribesmen at the same time wanted to retain their identity by recognition of Rewaj and the Jirga system under the new system.

They also advocated a more gradual and phased approach to FATA reforms so that displaced people can return to their homes and smooth transition from post conflict situation to durable peace can be ensured.

Virtually no support for a separate FATA province due to its geographic location, weak linkages between the agencies and limited financial resources.

Similarly the option of FATA Council, on the lines of the GB Council, also did not enjoy much support. It was emphasized that even as a transitional measure, it would create new vested interests that could block further reforms and lead to the next logical demand of a separate FATA.

The fourth option, i.e. FATA's integration with KP was widely supported as it offered many advantages and is the only rational choice for "mainstreaming" FATA, since the people of FATA will be able to elect their representatives for the

Provincial Assembly of KP and expand opportunities for improved governance.

Under the integration option the security infrastructure, including the strength and quality of Levies and other Law Enforcing Agencies will have to be improved and

extended throughout FATA, making it easier for the Armed Forces to withdraw from its security role in FATA, within 4-5 years.

REHABILITATION AND RECONSTRUCTION:

Highest priority, after the restoration of peace should be assigned to rehabilitation of the tribal people, reconstruction of tribal areas on a war footing and revival of

livelihood activities.

The target date for return of TDPs should be end of 2016 the reconstruction phase should be completed before the end of 2018.

This gigantic task will require much larger financial resources and coordination between all the Federal Agencies including SAFRON, FATA Secretariat, the Army formations and FWO/NLC.

A comprehensive rehabilitation and reconstruction plan has been launched by FATA secretariat which should be synchronized with the above timelines.

Foreign donors can be invited to provide part of financial resources for the reconstruction plan.

The 10-year development programme should include major infrastructure and irrigation projects, mineral development programme and integrated plans for health, education including establishment of university, medical and engineering colleges, vocational training and industrial zones with special incentives.

A major aim of this 10-year programme will be to bring FATA at par with the rest of Pakistan on the basis of all major economic and social indicators.

FATA Development Authority (FDA) may be reorganized with enhanced powers to implement large infrastructure projects under the 10-year Development Plan.

Thirty percent of the allocation in the 10-year Plan should be channeled through the local bodies.

An important component of the new Development Plan would be the concept of social transformation of FATA through urbanization by setting up modern urban hubs in all Agency Headquarters and other important trading centres.

All posts in FATA should be upgraded at par with KP.

Salaries for the project personnel should be 20% higher than the project policy of KP.

Special incentives to private sector in education and health sectors should be given in the form of free land.

State Bank of Pakistan to encourage establishment of more branches of banks in FATA with special incentives for private banks.

Quota of FATA students in education and health institutions be doubled and retained for 10 years after integration.

Once the rehabilitation phase is completed, party based local bodies elections can be held in FATA before end of 2017.

This would require promulgation of FATA Local Government Regulation, which should be formulated within three months.

All other formalities e.g. updating the electoral rolls, finalizing the constituencies, rules and regulations should be completed by the first quarter of 2017.

A separate unit for FATA may be created in the Election Commission office, Peshawar for this purpose.

It has been recommended that the success of these reforms is dependent on institutional capacity building and provision of required manpower.

More importantly, the institution of Political Agent being the pivot of the reform process has to be retained and strengthened during the transition period to effectively complete the reform process.

A well structured implementation mechanism will be necessary to ensure adequate and timely implementation of the Reforms recommended by this Committee.

This should include a Cabinet Level Committee and a special Directorate of Transition and Reforms with dedicated units for each segment of the Reforms.

After final presentation of the Report, it would be made public to generate a debate on the recommendations in the media.

The Chairman of the Committee would seek consensus of 19 members of Parliament from FATA.

The Chairman of the Committee should also discuss with the Chairman Senate and Speaker of the National Assembly the best approach to seek the views/endorsement of the two Houses of Parliament on these recommendations.

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