By: Zeba Shahnaz
[The writer is a student of BS International Relations IR at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid e Azam University.]
History of Pashtuns has always been full of dramatic conflicts. They have been constantly struggling with one invader or another. Balochs confronted somewhat the same fate. Since the time of the British colonizers in the subcontinent, the Pakhtuns have been discriminated against. They were divided among themselves by the foreign rulers. The British rulers governed the subcontinent for over a century, during which they tried to make a magnificent history of the British crown. For this purpose, they fought other nearby regions of the subcontinent. They captured certain areas of the Afghan territory and made them a part of the Indian subcontinent. Those annexed territories were divided into Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Northern Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). For the Britishers, this division was a shield against the Russian or Afghan attack on the subcontinent. FATA had been a “No Man’s Land” since the creation of Pakistan. Despite the fact that FATA and its people are a fundamental part of the KPK province, FATA had to struggle for its very existence.
For the past seventy (70) years, after the emergence of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, its successor governments have failed badly to integrate and strengthen the whole nation. They preserved the division of KPK, FATA and Northern Balochistan among the Pakhtun people. They did made efforts to tackle this very issue but they were not effective because of one reason or another. Thus, the fate of Federally Administered Tribal Areas throughout all this time proved very unfortunate. They continued the legacy of the British crown and followed them in their footsteps. While there has been no justification for such an inhumane treatment against the people and land of FATA.
For the last six decades, the government in power at that very time made certain efforts. They set up a FATA Reforms Committee. Its main aim was to decide for FATA what was in its best interest. It basically provided four possibilities that could be done for the betterment of FATA. First thing was to maintain the status-quo with minor changes, second option was the grant of special status to FATA like the prior GB (Gilgit-Baltistan),third choice was that of a separate province of FATA and lastly the integration of FATA with KPK. FATA Reforms Committee of the present Nawaz government was meant to provide the basic reasons for the failure of the previous governments in this regard plus the real solution of the FATA issue. The Prime Minister of Pakistan called for an immediate solution by mentioning that the FATA reforms figured prominently under the National Action Plan formulated for undertaking counter measures against terrorism, as it was infected with armed national and international militant groups, who challenged the writ of the State.
The committee provided the solution as the “merger of FATA with KPK as the only solution” for the problems rising in the whole region and the country. It was formally confirmed by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the KPK governor Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, separately. It is a very new thing in the history of Pakistan that such an act has been taken place. This turn of merging FATA with KPK will provide fundamental democratic rights to the people of FATA. It will provide them constitutional, civic and political rights; ensuring the participation of the people of FATA on national and international forums. This merger would be completed in over a period of five years during which the efforts for the restoration of peace would be made. The whole process of integration of FATA with KPK has brought a ray of hope among the people of the nation which can be helpful for the unity of the state on the whole. It can also lead to the termination of the mindset that the Pakhtuns are the neglected people in Pakistan. We can hope for the best out of the solution proposed that finally the “colonial legacy has come to an end.”