By Sikander Hayat
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan is an area outside the four provinces bordering Afghanistan, comprising a region of some 27,220 km² (10,507 sq mi).
The FATA are bordered by: Afghanistan to the west, the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab to the east, and Balochistan to the south.
The total population of the FATA was estimated in 2000 to be about 3,341,070 people, or roughly 2% of Pakistan's population. Only 3.1% of the population resides in established townships. It is the most rural administrative unit in Pakistan.
FATA comprise seven Agencies, namely Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orakzai, North and South areas of Waziristan. The main towns include Miranshah, Razmak, Bajaur, Darra Bazzar, Ghalanai as Head Quarters of Mohmand Agency and Wana .
There are 20 legislators from FATA in the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan. (12 MNAs & 8 Senators.)
The region is only nominally controlled by the central government of Pakistan. In reality it is practically entirely controlled by the Pakhtun elders.
The continuous war in Afghanistan for last 30 years had a negative impact on the tribal areas and their infrastructure. Firstly, with Pakistan becoming the frontline state in the war, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan virtually ceased to exist. The tribal belt became the main supply route for the Mujahedeen fighting the Soviets. The tribal areas provided a base for the Mujahedeen, and weapons, supplies, and other war sustenance efforts were routed from these areas.
Large numbers of Afghan refugees arrived in the FATA, placing pressure on the local resources. In some cases, refugees outnumbered the local population. The war also brought a culture of guns and drugs. During this period, the economy of the tribal areas, which was already underdeveloped, suffered enormously.
The local administration, which already exercised only nominal control over the tribal population, was rendered totally ineffective under the impact of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The result was that all kinds of illegal activity, like smuggling, drug trafficking and gun running, flourished in these areas.
With the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989, there was a bloody war between the Soviet-installed Afghan regime and the Afghan Mujahedeen groups. Because security and peace were lacking in Afghanistan, there was no question of the Afghan refugees returning to their country. The tribal areas, therefore, continued to be the home of millions of Afghan refugees.
In 1996, Kabul fell to the Taliban. As a result of nearby Taliban, the writ of the government of Pakistan in the FATA became less effective. Some people of the FATA joined the Taliban in fighting against the Northern Alliance. Movement of men and material across the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was unregulated. Several aspects of the FATA's culture have been influenced, and in some cases the traditions of tribal people were affected by the more conservative interpretation of Islam favoured by the Taliban. A large number of people from different regions of Pakistan and the world entered Afghanistan to join what they claimed was jihad against the Northern Alliance.
The 1997 elections were the first held in the Tribal Areas on the basis of universal adult suffrage. According to the electoral rolls prepared for the 1997 elections, the total number of registered votes was 1.6 million, including 0.4 million female votes. The extension of adult franchise in FATA was a long-standing demand of the people of Tribal Areas. But the successive governments of Pakistan had been postponing this decision due to their policy of appeasement towards the tribal chiefs (Maliks), who feared the loss of their entrenched privileged positions in the areas in case method of direct elections was introduced.
The FATA contain commercially proven viable reserves of marble, copper, limestone and coal. However, in the current socio-political conditions, there is no chance of their exploitation in a profitable manner.
Industrialization of the FATA is another route or remedy proposed for a rapid breaking up of the tribal barriers and promoting the cause of integration. The process of industrialization through a policy of public / private partnership would not only provide employment opportunities and economic benefits but also assist in bringing the youth of the tribal area at par with those of the developed cities in the rest of the country.
With Thanks To Wikipedia.