Keeping security as the top concern, Pakistan’s FATA Reforms Committee has suggested the merging of the troubled Federally Administered Tribal Areas with the neighbouring Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, according to a detailed report published in the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune. According to the committee, the merger of FATA with KP is the only viable route to mainstream the tribal areas, where most of the dreaded terror outfits operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan are said to have found safe havens. A five-year plan has been devised for this purpose.

The 51-page report of the Fata committee, which has been submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, says that without reforms, the army may have to stay in FATA indefinitely, thus affecting Pakistan’s strategic military balance on the eastern front.

“A security vacuum after Pakistan Army’s withdrawal would create more space for terrorists and undesirable elements,” reads the final report, a copy of which is available with the Express Tribune.

The report proposes that in order to sustain the successes achieved by the military, law enforcement agencies and political administrations, legal and
security reforms are essential for the “build, operationalisation and transfer phases”.

The final meeting of the committee was held in the first week of August, an official told the newspaper. “It was sent to the PM’s office for a final nod”.

One interesting part of proposed reforms is retaining the jirga system prevalent in the tribal areas. The jirga system is like the panchayat system of India and is considered to be a parallel judicial system.

The committee report stated that the jirga system should be retained for both civil and criminal matters, whereby the court will appoint a council of elders to decide factual issues and announce judgements on the basis of riwaj (traditions) and the prevailing law in force.

Importantly, it has been recommended that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high court be extended to the tribal areas by amending Article 247 of Pakistan Constitution and other relevant laws, so that those who want to protect their fundamental rights can do so like any other citizen of Pakistan.

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