FATA - The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan

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.


  1. Pakistan can do better without FATA

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) is a very vital trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia and therefore has a lot of strategic significance. Pakistan will not be better off without FATA. The best option will be to gradually give FATA a provincial status with an elected assembly to run the affairs of the area. Before the insurgency started in 2003/2004, FATA had a system run by Maliks but this has now been total demolished by the Pakistani Taliban and it will be really hard to bring it back. Democracy is the key here and sooner FATA has some sort of autonomy to run its affairs through democratic tools, the better it will be. Political emancipation will help local people bring about vital changes to their economic structures and will help in cutting the roots of militancy in the area.

  3. Thanks Mr. Sikandar Hayat for your valuable insights in FATA perspective and the proposed solution to bring our Tribal pukhtoon brothers and sisters out of existing difficlt solution.The united we will be strong the divided will be broken

  4. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif visited Field Formations in FATA on Thursday. This was the first visit of Army chief Sharif to North and South Waziristan after assuming command on 29 November, 2013.

    An ISPR press release said that during his interaction with officers and soldiers in Miranshah and Wana, the Army chief expressed satisfaction and the state of combat readiness along with the high morale of troops.

    General Sharif also lauded their achievements towards bringing stability in these areas through development projects being undertaken by the army which are likely to contribute in the national effort for durable peace and economic prosperity in areas affected by terrorism.

    The press release further said that the Army chief advised officers and soldiers to continue working with the army’s traditional unflinching resolve and utmost dedication in the service of the nation.

    Upon his arrival, the COAS was received by Lt. General Khalid Rabbani, Commander 11 Corps.

  5. The new head of the Pakistani Taliban had returned to the country’s tribal areas, a spokesman for the militants said on Tuesday, after several years based in Afghanistan.

    Mullah Fazlullah was elected as leader of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last month after his predecessor was killed by a US drone.

    Fazlullah has been based mainly in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan since 2009, when a military operation ended his followers’ brutal two-year “rule” of Swat valley.

    TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said Fazlullah was now “commanding the Taliban movement at an unknown location in the tribal areas”.

    The TTP and other militants have strongholds in the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along Pakistan’s rugged, porous border with Afghanistan.

    Shahid’s comments came after some TV channels reported that Fazlullah had reached Waziristan.

    “It is not true that Maulana Fazlullah is in Waziristan, he is in the tribal areas but at unknown location,” Shahid said.

    An intelligence source said: “We have information that... Fazlullah has entered the tribal area along with 15 or 20 guards.”

    According to the source, Fazlullah will be keen to end squabbling among the Taliban leadership and streamline what is essentially a chaotic organisation with weak central command.

    Another intelligence source said his escort included three high-profile Taliban commanders, Azam Waziristani, Mufti Abdul Rashid and Muftahuddin.

  6. When in 2007 the TTP (Tehrik e Taliban) moved in and killed 260 elders leaving a vacuum, it created an atmosphere of fear in Fata never seen before. With them money poured in from different sources largely charities and some Muslim countries who wanted an Islamic Shariah rule in Pakistan and to make matters worse each one of them intent on promoting and perpetuating their own version.
    For things to reach this point, the Army with its strategic depth paradigm is also to be blamed, though now it is reaping the whirlwind along with countrymen. The ongoing mêlée could have easily been resolved many years ago if Fata had been added to the territory of Pakistan instead of leaving it to fester like an open wound.
    During the British Raj as they found it hard to rule, this became an independent entity, ruled by the ‘Frontier Crimes Regulations’ (FCR). These regulations were based on tribal rules and implemented through the local elders and by Jirga system which kept it outside of laws implemented in Pakistan.
    There are many Pushtoon or Pathan tribes located in Fata, the Mehsud’s, Orakzai the Mohmands which were warring tribes having close family links to families in Afghanistan. As no development had taken place in the last several decades leaving the people bereft of education or skills, they may have welcomed the Taliban as their saviours. In the process many have lost family members in the drone attacks because of these intruders.
    Many of the self proclaimed Al Qaida activists are not even Fata based force but largely foreigners who have infiltrated the area disguised as Taliban. Secret agreements between the tribes and the Pakistan Army could achieve no results. The main mediator between the government of Pakistan and the elders in Fata were the Political Agents, they had great power and ruled like kings benefiting from both side. Many tribes were not in league with the Taliban but refrained from standing against them to save their families and homes.
    In 2009, the Mohmand tribe from the Bajaur agency tried to make a pact with the Pakistan Army but not much came of it. With no education these people were easily won over in the name of religion, the zest for becoming martyrs.
    “We have created these monsters (Taliban) by the political system in Fata, if we merge the people of Fata into the mainstream life we can remove this plague once and for all and these people could become our strength,” A Peshawar based journalist said.
    He also added that the land rich in minerals can be an asset, instead of being a problem that has become a sore point for the nation. The men inhabiting these towering mountains are proud and hard working. They face harsh elements without any hospitals or medical facilities without schools for their children or colleges for their youth. The government of Pakistan has done nothing to bring education or industry to this area and is reaping a harvest of stones now!
    This beautiful mountainous area has been turned into a graveyard by the negligence and carelessness of passing governments. It could have been a tourist attraction or it could have been mined. How many treasures lie under the heart of the stones in Fata no one knows.

  7. Leaders of various political parties in Khyber Agency Sunday called for holding the local government elections in tribal areas.Representatives of the Pakistan People’s Party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Jamaat-e-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party, Awami National Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz held a meeting in Jamrud. The participants demanded the PML-N-led federal government to conduct free and fair local government elections. QWP leader Asad Afridi said tribal people had suffered due to militancy and now wanted to move forward.

  8. FATA: the forgotten land — Ahmad Noor Waziri

    The road to a stable and prosperous Pakistan passes through FATA. Seeking alternative routes is an illusion

    Almost a barren land of hard rocks and hard people, the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) are a physical reality. It does exist, has been clearly marked on the map and precisely mentioned in the constitution of the country (article 1, section 2c). However, it has no existence, so far, in the prime minister’s cabinet, speeches and priorities. “My dear youngsters,” the prime minister emphasised in his second address to the nation, “I should mention here that these schemes (youth schemes) will be implemented for all four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.” Like his first address, he again intentionally omitted mentioning FATA. Such an indifferent attitude on the part of the new government is indeed very depressing, oddly disappointing and unacceptable to the people of the tribal areas. It has been clearly noticed and strongly felt by the people of FATA. Hence it is imperative to bring in light this forgotten land, its miserable plight, failed expectations and the government’s negligence.

    Though notoriously known as a no-man’s land and safe haven for militants, FATA accounts for, according to unofficial estimates, more than eight million inhabitants — probably the most neglected, deprived and forgotten segment of the nation. The region could be a safe haven for some and an ideal experimental field of modern warfare for others but, for its own natives, it is neither safe nor an ideal place to live. For them, it is nothing more than the Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ where life is “poor, short and brutish”. The clashing ideologies, diverging interests and myopic policies pave the way to war of “all against all”. Resultantly, the people have nothing at their disposal but a notorious past, a precarious present and a dark future.

    It is the poorest part of the country, where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. It is probably the darkest and most backward region with the lowest literacy rate of 17 percent. Having no university, FATA’s youth have to go to other cities for higher education — an expensive luxury indeed. Moreover, since 9/11, the region has been exposed to the catastrophe and disaster of war, causing them excruciating loss in terms of economy and human lives. Its economy has collapsed. Thousands of the people have been killed and maimed while hundreds of thousands have been displaced. The rest are desperately fighting against stress, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Against all odds and despite great uncertainty, the people of FATA enthusiastically participated in the May 11, 2013 elections. They perceived the election, though mistakenly, as a prelude to their better future, blessed with peace, progress and prosperity. For the first time in FATA’s history, they elected two candidates from the PML-N, from the most volatile constituencies of NA 41 (Wana, South Waziristan) and NA 44 (Bajaur Agency). Later on, six other independent MNAs joined the ruling party. The reason for this choice was their strong faith in Mian Nawaz Sharif’s political maturity, sincerity and vision, which he was supposedly blessed with.

  9. sir i am carrying out an official research on "policy options in light of history and emerging dynamics of FATA" sir i require ur guidance please. sir my face book ID is zubairkhanniazi41@gmail.com or can u give me ur ID so that i can contact u make it more fruitful and beneficial for the department. sir i have read ur thoughts about the FATA they were really commendable to be included.


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