By Tahir Ahmad
Sep 30, 2015

politicalOn September 6, 2015, a bill was moved in the National Assembly that has called for extensive reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This bill puts forward certain propositions related to the constitutional status of FATA by amending Article 1, sub clause 2(c) that states that tribal areas are part of the territories of Pakistan, and suggests the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). Furthermore, the bill also recommends a revision of Article 247, clause 7, under which the high court does not have jurisdiction in this area, which according to many legislators simply constitutes a denial of justice.

At the time of the British Raj, FATA was viewed and maintained as a buffer zone between the British Empire and Russia. Even after partition the region has retained this ‘special status’, for purposes both strategic and otherwise; to date it remains outside the domain of state institutions. Now, as the state has been compelled to enter the area unofficially due to Operation Zarb-e-Azab, it seeks to formalize its jurisdictional claim in the area by calling for a comprehensive reform package that includes the extension of the writ of the state’s civil administration and political institutions into FATA.

The above-mentioned proposal for the merger of FATA with KP has been contested on several grounds, the foremost being that the people from these tribal areas are not accustomed to state institutions and that these areas can therefore only be best governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) – an infamous law from the time of the British Raj. Several tribal leaders, including former Senator Hameedullah Jan Afridi are also opposed to the idea that FATA be merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at all, and advocate the case for a separate provincial status for the area. They hold the conviction that provincial bureaucracy will exploit the simple people of these areas and, supported by tribal associations, these tribal legislators argue that a separate portion in the NFC should be allotted to FATA, as the distribution of developmental budget will remain a challenge if FATA is merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

These are the problems that are likely to become the focus of debate surrounding this bill and the proposal for mainstreaming FATA. In this context, the political implications for the tribal communities, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as the rest of the country are worth considering.

While some of these arguments may have logical explanations, they fail to fully contextualize the issues at hand. For instance, the argument for tribal lack of familiarity and thereby an implied resistance towards state institutions does not take into account or explain the settlement of Mohmand tribes in the established districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The settlement of people from South and North Waziristan in Tonk, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu districts, and those from Orakzai, Khurrum and Khyber cannot be ignored when the case for FCR is being made.

The contrasting arguments in this respect are far more compelling; if the FCR is abolished and the state justice system prevails, the tribes would finally have access to a system that provides them relief from the despotic rule of political agents. Moreover, it will result in increased representation for the merged region in both Houses of Parliament as well as the Provincial Assembly, and remain unchanged for the Senate. The number of representatives in the National Assembly would also increase by 12 – a number that will have significant impact on legislation, and thereby on center-provincial relations.

Secondly, with the merger, the share of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the National Finance Commission Award (NFC) will actually increase proportionately. The 7th NFC award distributed the federal divisible pool funds along the following lines: 85 percent by population, followed by revenue generation, level of underdevelopment and losses in the War on Terror. Interestingly, recently provinces failed to achieve consensus on the 8th NFC award, and as a result, the 7th NFC award will be extended for another year. This unsuccessful NFC meeting indicates that the already soured federal and provincial relations may be further strained if FATA were to be merged into KP. Besides population proportion, the level of underdevelopment and losses due to the War on Terror may further act as an apple of discord between the Centre and KP.

Afridi’s claim that the provincial bureaucracy of KP would exploit the simple people of FATA, however, is not logical, as even a separate provincial status will also require a bureaucratic setup. The status of FATA as a province under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the extension of the original and appellate jurisdiction of high court will remain the same whether FATA becomes a separate province or is merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Using this argument to insist upon a separate provincial status for FATA therefore, seems an unnecessarily irrational demand.

A more rational argument in this context would be based upon constituency-based politics of development. Normally in such a political model, a chief minister from a particular district concentrates or spends most of the developmental budget on their own district at the expense of other districts. If FATA is merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it will affect the dynamics of provincial politics several ways. The merge will mean the addition of 30 million people to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and new constituencies in the provincial assembly. The figure of 30 million is probably significantly lower than the actual number, as it has been taken from the 1998 census – today, in addition to the natural population growth there are at least one million IDPs in FATA from North Waziristan alone; one can only imagine what the current exact population count is. This evolution in the membership of the constituencies will play a critical role in the formation of the provincial government. Furthermore, constituency-preference based political practices, together with the despotic rule of political agents, has and will continue to alienate the people of tribal areas from ideas of modernity and development – a factor that is also considered responsible for the rise of terrorism and extremism in FATA.

Under the current provincial set up the population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can be divided in to four zones; the Peshawar valley consisting Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Nowshehra and Charsadda, the Hazara Belt, from Haripur to Kohistan, the South from Kohat to Dera Ismail Khan, and Swat Valley. In Swat the ANP, JI and PTI may be stronger, but in the Hazara belt PML N is stronger, in the South the JUI, whereas in the Peshawar Valley, it is a shared domain as there is no permanent trend in electoral victories for any political party.

Adding the new zone of FATA will benefit Peshawar and the South Zone as the FR Peshawar, Khyber and Mohmand Agency will be added to the Peshawar Zone whereas North and South Waziristan, Orakzai and Khurram Agency and the adjacent FR regions will be added to the South. Thus, political parties will have to enhance their support-base in these two areas if they would like to form the provincial government in the area. In this context, the role of the JUI in the South will further increase, particularly as they already have a strong support base in the South, which effectively means a greater role for the JUI in the formation of government if FATA merges into KP. In comparison, the Mohmand and Khyber agencies in the Peshawar Valley has lower possibility for permanent constituencies, which means space will remain open for all political parties.

Lastly, the question of attributing a provincial status to FATA must also be considered from a purely administrative angle as well. A separate status for FATA is not a very feasible option; this mountainous area stretches from Bajaur in the North to South Waziristan in the South, covering seven agencies, among which there is no direct line of communication in terms of transportation and the movement of people. There are link routes between North and South Waziristan, Orakzai and Khurram Agency through which the people of this area can have easy access to Kohat, Bannu and DI Khan. Similarly, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur are linked to the Peshawar valley, but it is difficult to establish direct communication linkages with the tribal areas located in the South. In these circumstances, locating the capital of the province would be challenge for the government and the people of tribal areas.

The issue around the distribution of developmental budget can be resolved by fixing separate shares for every agency in the NFC Award itself, or the formation of a provincial finance commission that determines resource allocation and distribution for FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Before any of this comes to pass however, it is of the utmost importance that all political parties showcase the resolve and commitment needed to support such bills in the Parliament; the bill can only pass by two third majorities. Reportedly FATA legislators have been assured by the Awami National Party, the Pakistan People’s Party, and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of their support in this regard. The rest remains at the mercy of the differences among the tribal legislators and other political parties.

There are also some who are advocating for referendum-based reforms in the region, but the question for such a referendum remains undecided, as it is not clear that whether it is a referendum on the abolition of the FCR alone or on the ‘special’ provincial status that they desire. In the context of a referendum however, it is important to remember the nature and capacity of the locals, and their limitations (political, cultural, financial as well as potential duress from the current agents and powerful entities). A biased referendum favoring the maintenance of the FCR would provide legal justification for its perpetuation, and retain the ‘black hole’-like nature of the region, alien from any experiences of modernity and state institutions. A more comprehensive strategy is required for the inclusion of tribal regions into the state of Pakistan, so that it may move into the twenty first century with the rest of the country.

By Tahir Ahmad
May 20, 2015

Verdict-on-Mohamed-Morsi[1]The execution of political dissent in Egyptian politics is not an unusual occurrence; in fact it is a common incident in what are considered ‘closed’ societies and dictatorial regimes. In Mohamed Morsi’s trial however, there are certain factors which can be considered responsible for this verdict that may even lead to his execution. These include his political background, the internal dynamics of Egyptian politics and the external factors. Furthermore, while some of the immediate charges leveled against him during his trial are separate from the policies that led to his political isolation, they are nonetheless closely connected with his trial.


Morsi hails from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), an organization which was banned after the assassination of Anwer Sadat. Since then, the pre-election arrest of MB members has become a matter of routine. The MB agenda is known to be crowned by the desire to impose Islamic-based governance in the country, which places it at odds with military regime. The MB also opposes the friendly foreign policy of Egypt towards Israel and the United States. Thus it was expected that the once/if the MB came to power, civil-military relations would worsen.

The government of Egypt should seek a political resolution, as confrontation ensuing from a political execution will bring further instability to the state, as well as dilute the strength of the armed forces.

Internal Factors

On assuming power, Morsi initiated measures for reducing the powers of the armed forces; he removed several military officers from key administrative positions, and introduced civilian oversight of the finances as well as procurement related matters – a move that infuriated the entire military establishment of the country. At this point, the military simply needed a feasible pretext on account of which Morsi could be unseated, and the military could regain its lost prestige since the fall of Mubarak.

Such a pretext was provided by the rift that occurred between Morsi and his coalition partners over power-sharing and constitutional amendments. In the parliamentary elections, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP is a political extension of the banned MB, led by Morsi) and the Salafist Al-Nour party came to the fore as the majority parties, both in the Shura Council and the Lower House. Other parties sitting on the opposition benches won only eight percent of the parliamentary seats. The rift between the two parties occurred due to matters related to

ministerial positions. Al-Nour accused Mosri and the MB of failing to fulfill their promise related to ministerial positions for its members. Furthermore, the chief of the Al-Nour party, Younis Makhyoun, threatened to reveal a report that would expose Morsi’s policies of “Ikhwanisation” – a strategy that, according to him, was based on the appointment of 13 MB members as governors and thousands of others in key positions. In the opposition, the National Salvation Front (NSF) was against the text of the Constitution, which it claimed had certain controversial clauses regarding the powers of the President and Islamic law. The Al-Nour party was against the removal of the clauses related to Islamic law, but held similar opinions regarding the powers of the president. This rift among the political parties left Morsi politically isolated at the domestic front; an isolation which was further reinforced by the international factors.

External Factors

Internationally, the steps taken by Mohamed Morsi were viewed with confusion in the United States and the Gulf Countries, who had traditionally maintained close ties with Egyptian Army. Morsi’s relations with the Gulf States were based around two factors: the relations of the coalition partner, the Salafist Al-Nour party and Morsi’s relations with Iran. The weakening relations with his coalition partner and his visit to Iran were viewed as an attempt to seek alternatives to the previous policies of Egypt under Mubarak.

The other international factor was the role of the United States, which has always been deeply concerned with the security of Israel, and thus maintained close relations with Egypt. The rise of Morsi however, saw these close relations deteriorate, as the MB was against the clientele relationship of the Egyptian Army with the United States.

The Subsequent Vortex

In addition to the internal as well as international isolation, Morsi’s downfall can be traced to one essential factor; the state-society relations under his regime. Although Morsi had popular legitimacy to begin with, he did not initiate policies which could strengthen his position against the military establishment. His predecessor, Hosni Mubarak had centralized powers in the hands of the few, and policies based on privatization, liberalization, and tourism had disillusioned the workers who, over the years, took to the streets in mass protests. Mubarak had dispossessed the people of their political liberties and civil freedom which forced the Egyptian working class, constituting the majority of population, to overthrow his regime. It is noteworthy that Morsi focused only on the agenda of the MB, and ignored other areas which were the among the root causes of the revolution. Thus, he distanced himself from the masses and became increasingly unpopular.

Taking advantage of this situation, the military staged a demonstration against Morsi with the help of the opposition parties. Morsi’s coalition partners remained neutral, which is considered by the greater part of the population to be the result of a tacit agreement between them and the establishment. As a consequence of the mass protests, staged or otherwise, the military was presented with the opportunity it sought, and a ready-made pretext to unseat Morsi and charge him with different crimes, including cases of espionage, jail break and abetment in murder.


The recent verdict by military-backed courts is certain to bring protests from the members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as people from civil society. It will be difficult for the Sisi regime to gain popularity as the political and civil segments of society will be reminded of past experiences, which may put them at odds with the military regime. This situation is further complicated by challenges like the matter of the Coptic Christians in the Egypt, the threat of Islamic State, and the involvement of Egyptian forces against the Houthis in Yemen.

The matter of Coptic Christians and IS could potentially garner US support, and participation against Houthis in Yemen will invite the Saudi-led GCC in forging closer relations. This relationship can then be used by Gen Sisi to attract the political support of the Salafist Al-Nour Party. Against this backdrop the Army and Gen Sisi appear to be in a strong position against Morsi. Nonetheless, the priorities of the general populace, if effectively mobilized by the MB members, could trigger another lot of mass protests and violence.

The government of Egypt should seek a political resolution, as confrontation ensuing from a political execution will bring further instability to the state, as well as dilute the strength of the armed forces. A constitutional arrangement based on inclusion and plurality can best resolve the current political problems faced by Egypt. Moreover, the government should address the problems of the working class majority, which continue to persist and were in fact the primary cause of the revolution, and could resurface again in the form of mass protests and internal violence. For peace to prevail a political solution based on the aspirations of the common populace are vital, and necessary for returning political stability to Egypt.

By Tahir Ahmad
Oct 1, 2014


Operation Zarb-i-Azb launched in North Waziristan Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is considered the most important of all the campaigns launched in the Tribal Areas and some other parts of Khyber Pakhthunkhwa. The Inter-Services Public Relations (the media wing of the Armed Forces of Pakistan) press release issued on September 3, 2014, claims the Army’s successes in Zarb-i-Azb to the extent that 910 terrorists had so far been killed, and the Khajuri-Mirali-Miranshah-Dattakhel and Ghariom-Jhallar roads had been opened, as also major towns of Miranshah, Mirali, DattaKhel, Boya and Degan, had been cleared from the militants’ stronghold.

According to rough estimates, nearly 50,000 persons have been killed in the War on Terror and more than 55 million displaced, with four million repatriated to the Swat region after the Armed Forces took the region back from Talibans’ control, and one million are still in the camps of Bannu and surrounding areas. The war has already shattered the economy and social fabric of society; an arduous task for any government and political leadership to cope with in the coming days.

 Unfortunately, the claims made in the Operations are tactical, while the question of Pasthun’s, especially the Tribals’, survivability is historic in nature and content. The word ‘Temporarily Dislocated People (TDPs)’ has been used in the press release. The approach using such terminology about the displacement of the inhabitants of these areas undermines the fact that they have a long history of exclusion.

The Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) imposed during the colonial era have led to the absence of a State system in the region. Subsequently, the failure of the State of Pakistan, Abubakar Siddiq says in his book, The Pashthun Question, to co-opt the inhabitants of tribal areas, together with other factors, has been responsible for the current crisis.  In other words, it was the absence of statism that invited a spate of different currents of conflict between different forces to the region.

Therefore, the war between the Pakistan Army and militants should not be confused with the war between statism and militancy. The former has tactical military objectives; the latter is concerned with the power structure and political orientation of society. In all conflicts of the region, the war objectives of the sponsoring states; the colonial British, the Soviet Army, the United States and its allies; allied for the containment of socialism and now the conflict between the regional and world powers is strategic in nature.

They ignore the historical process that has been shaping the region’s power and organizational structure. It is the fourth phase of the historical conflicts that has been occurring since the Colonial age between the established character and identity of Pashthuns, and the current of colonialism. In the first phase, society encountered colonialism through nationalism and tribalism together with religion and customs of Pashthuns.

Among the notables nationalists were Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan and Faqir of Epi who fought in the name of nationalism and tribalism with non-violent and violent discourses, respectively. In some places, it was more religious in nature, as it was declared a war between the followers of Islam and the infidels which lasted till independence.  The colonial power could not achieve victory.

Rather, for restoration of peace and security, order was imposed through the Frontier Crime Regulations, which continue to operate in the region till today. Amir Abdur Rahman, the then Afghan King, after the Durand Line agreement was signed had warned the British that the inclusion of these areas into colonial empire would bring instability and the people of these areas would be fighting against them. His words fell on their deaf ears and the British Empire did what they could.

In the following years, the area witnessed violence against the colonial rule which the latter failed to establish peace. Consequently, the tribal society remained deprived of the experience of statism and modern political institutions. Tribalism under the rubric of FCR was accepted as the sole regulating structure of society.

The second phase was characterized by a war between the currents of socialism and tribalism. The emergence of Socialism in Afghanistan, the trans-border population along the Durand Line faced the onslaught of Socialism on their religion and customs. Under State patronage, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with Islamists who came from all over the Muslim world, fought to contain Socialism.

The defeat of Socialists and the settlement of Jihadists in the tribal areas militarized society socially and religiously. In the subsequent years, tribalism was weakened and Islamic militancy took roots. After the defeat of Taliban in Afghanistan and their concentration in the Tribal Areas, the focus of the War on Terror was shifted to the Tribal Areas of Pakistan and the bordering region.

The third phase is characterized by the encounter of tribalism with militancy. Militants gained support on Islamic appeal from the locals, and those who were opposed to militants, were treated brutally. By terrorizing and killing the tribal leadership, a vacuum of power was created in society.

Every Agency of the Tribal Areas was controlled by its respective Taliban leader. The Jirga (the customary council for settlement of disputes) remained absent, while the FCR were ineffective. Society was left in a state of anarchy at the cost of thousands of people killed and millions displaced.

 After the spillover of militancy into the settled districts of Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, the conflict between statism and militancy started. Military operations against militants in Buner, Swat, Dir, Malakand, Mohamand, Khybar, Kurram and South Waziristan were successful in routing out the terrorists from the region. While the current Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan is in progress, one million displaced persons residing in camps are waiting for their safe return, the military claims success every now and then, but the battle against militants is not yet over. According to a BBC news a few days ago, pamphlets were distributed in the Afghan regions adjoining the Tribal Areas to get support for the ISIS. Hezb-i-Islami was alleged to have aligned itself with ISIS, but media reports deny this by quoting Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbaddin Hikmathyar. Moreover, the porous nature of the border and the inability of Afghan security forces to seal the border may provide exit sanctuaries in Afghan regions contiguous to Tribal Areas.  That would pose a challenge to the tactical victories of Pakistan Army in the shape of trans-border incursions, frequently occurring in Dir these days.

Moreover, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, in his article published on August 29, 2014, in the New York Times states, “The United States will hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in September, and we will use that opportunity to continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including those who have joined ISIS. During the General Assembly session, President Obama will lead a summit meeting of the Security Council to put forward a plan to deal with this collective threat.”

 If any decision is taken at UN against any of the organizations having links with the regional militant organizations, Pakistan will be pressurized for doing more. It is high time to tackle on militancy militarily and replace it with statism in the Tribal Areas.

Statism does not come through establishment of check-post and cantonments, but by administering the power structure of society through State institutions.  The political and legal alienation needs to be put to end by introducing the judicial and political system.  The generation of economic activity is another aspect which will encourage the inclusion of the tribals into the mainstream of the State.

Those who think that the people of these areas are separatists are still living in the 1970s. The age of separatist politics in Pashthun political ranks has ended which is evident from the fact that both the hard-core nationalist parties; Awami National Party and Pakhthunkhwa Mili Awami Party; are co-opting with the centre in the national parliament through constitutionalism. It is a critical phase of the history of the people of FATA to be accommodated in the mainstream of Pakistani society. But, unfortunately, the military operation is in progress, the political parties across the country display lack of interest to envisage a comprehensive strategy for the inclusion of tribals. If the region is left in a vacuum under in the clutches of the FCR, another phase of violence with new dynamics would start. History repeats itself and those who do not learn from their history are doomed to failure.

Tahir Ahmad is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS). The views expressed in this article are of writers own and do not necessarily present the position of the Centre.

Send this to a friend