Transformation and Mainstreaming of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan into National Politics

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DND Special Report

Pakistan shocked the whole world by winning extensive war against terrorism in minimum possible time and without foreign help because the entire nation stood together and military operation led by Pakistan Army reclaimed writ of the State at every corner of the country including former Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and did successful transformation of this troubled area into a land of opportunity which offers scenic beauty, hospitable community and excellent road networking. Areas of former FATA are now throbbing with domestic tourism industry and awesome valleys of this land are hosting thousands of thousands of tourists coming from all parts of Pakistan and even from abroad.

According to data collected by DND News Agency from tourism sector, valleys of former FATA are becoming one of important choices for individual tourists, backpackers and private tour operators.


The Land

His temperament, like his clothes, is picturesque and elegant. He loves fighting but hates to be a soldier. He loves music but has a great contempt for the musician. He is kind and gentle but hates to show it. He has strange principles and peculiar notions. He is hot-blooded, hot-headed, poor and proud

(Khan Abdul Ghani Khan, Renowned Pashto Poet and Philosopher (1914 – 1996)

Tribe wars with tribe. Every man’s hand is against the other and all are against the stranger … the state of continual tumult has produced a habit of mind which holds life cheap and embarks on war with careless levity

Winston Churchill, “The Story of Malakand Field Force”, 1897

Located in the north west Pakistan, erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) – now merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – is mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan. Historically, FATA along with eastern Afghanistan had remained a conflict zone and an area for great game between major powers right from Alexander the Great to invaders from Central Asia. It remained an Achilles heel for all warriors.

In modern time, this area played a major role in shaping global and regional power; from Russia – British contest in 19th century to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 80s to present day when US along with regional stake holders are looking for peace in Afghanistan FATA has become a linchpin of international power play.

More recently after withdrawal of former Soviet forces from Afghanistan (when FATA became a strategic base of resistance in Afghanistan), FATA and Afghanistan was left as an ungovernable and free for all zones.

The birth of Taliban, which filled the power vacuum in Afghanistan in early nineties and their rise to power saw FATA become a hornet nest of Jihadi outfits like Al Qaeda and Taliban. Despite efforts by Pakistan to manage the conflict in Afghanistan, FATA remained a transit zone for Jihadi groups where they had established a de-facto government.

Why is Afghanistan so important to Pakistan?. With almost 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan during Soviet occupation to 1.6 million at present, it topped the list of refugees hosts in the world. Pakistan remained and is the main supplier of strategic food material and supplies for Afghanistan. Afghan transit trade is the only viable option available to Afghanistan; Karachi serves as the main conduit for commerce and trade.

Pakistan joined the Global War on Terrorism in post 9/11 scenario and become a battle ground for one of the most vicious and longest wars in history. While Pakistan become a front-line state in this war and helped international community to stem the tide of terror in the region, she found herself subjected to Hybrid War with faceless and amorphous enemy supported by hostile agencies and their surrogates within Pakistan.

Although whole Pakistan (including major  urban centers) was badly affected by relentless terror attacks, erstwhile FATA became the ultimate battle ground forcing massive internal displacements, casualties in men and material and creating a trauma on collective psyche of a whole generation. Meanwhile a sophisticated information warfare was launched by enemies of Pakistan, especially India, with an objective of creating hopelessness and desperation in people of Pakistan.

Pakistan stood firm and through an epic saga of sacrifices and resilience (where people stood shoulder to shoulder with Army and LEAs) and started rolling back the scourge of terror, brick by brick.FATA Transformation

FATA, the saga of sacrifice written in pure blood

Treacherous terrain ridden with terror networks and cobweb of asymmetric warfare, FATA had a peculiar challenge, it borders Afghanistan across a porous border, with divided tribes living along Pak-Afghan border and even villages and houses split by Durand Line. Main challenges of operations in FATA included:-

  • Coordination of operations between Pak Army and US Led coalition where terrorist would sneak from one side to other.
  • Manage trauma and psychological impact of Drone Strikes, collateral damage due to use of heavy weapons (Artillery and Air power) and still convince the people of FATA, KP and rest of Pakistan that these operations were for the good of affected populace.
  • Deal with hostile agencies like RAW, who wanted to keep Durand Line on fine and use their proxies in Afghanistan, Balochistan and Urban centers of Pakistan to cripple the LEAs.
  • Keep strategic lines of communication open in Balochistan and FATA so as to help US/NATO forces in sustaining the war in Afghanistan.
  • Manage internal displacement and settle people of affected zones in temporary shelters, look after their social needs (health, economic, education and well being).
  • Conduct military operations in a hostile and treacherous terrain.
  • Spare forces from Eastern borders (with India trying to create a two front situation), raise additional forces, reorient complete training system from conventional to non conventional mode, build up capacity of 2nd line forces and LEAs and conduct operations to clear each agency, one by one.
  • Develop institutional mechanisms like NACTA etc through Parliamentary endorsement and create new laws.
  • Transform a conservative society and religions out look to sensitise general public that this war was not for anyone else but for survival of Pakistan.

Actions taken by army and government with support of people

By the time the nation and state of Pakistan meandered through above mentioned challenges (2003-2014) Pakistan had suffered billions of dollars in economy and massive casualties. APS tragedy in 2014 became Pakistan’s Pearl Harbour, the horrendous terror attack on innocent children and teachers and scenes of blood soaked class shook entire nation. Top Politico Military leadership concluded that enough was enough, and Pakistan had to go all out against the terrorist backers and surrogates.

Army and LEAs with the help of people of Pakistan launched operation Zarb-e-Azb, before that major operations like Rah-e-Haq, Rah-e-Raast, Rah-e-Nijjat and Khyber etc had been launched to clear terror networks from two main agencies, North and South Waziristan.

By the time operation Radd-ul-Fassad (combing operation to clear last vestiges of terror from entire Pakistan) was launched in 2017 under leadership of COAS General Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan had suffered following casualties as cost of victory against terrorism:-

  • Civilian casualties          – 50000 plus

(less injured)

  • LEAs and Army        – 5900
  • Economic Loss         – Over 200 billon dollars (including 130 billon in direct                                                    cost and 80 billion in-direct cost)


  • Ammunition –           19.7 Million Bullets
  • Small Arms –            191,498
  • IEDs –                      13,480
  • Heavy Weapons –      8915
  • Explosive –               3142 tons

While Pakistan suffered huge losses in men and material, thousands of terrorists were killed or captured, millions of dollars of foreign currency of was recovered and their IED manufacturing enterprise and factories were dismantled. With fencing of Pak-Afghan border, cross border movement of terrorists, drugs and smugglers has reduced to almost 5% of what was happening before. Estimated cost to terrorists is as under:-

  • Killed –                   15000 plus
  • Captured –              5000 plus

Overall planned fencing along Pak-Afghan border in 2611 kilometers is be completed by the end of the year 2020. Till now, 643 kilometers fencing on border including 462 kilometers in KP and 181 kilometers in Balochistan is completed.  A total of 843 border posts are planned out of which 233 have been completed while construction of 140 posts is underway. Due to improvement in security situation the number of check posts in rear areas has been reduced by over 31% during 2016-2018 resulting in increased trade and tourism activities.

More than 800 kms of roads have been constructed in the tribal districts as part of communication network thus reducing the traveling time to one third. A total of 493 projects were initiated benefiting three million people including: Pine Nut Processing Plant, Wana Agri Park, Wana Education Centre, and three functional Cadet Colleges. Major contributions also include APS Parachinar, Cadet College Wana, Govt College of Technology, Khar (Bajaur), while a total 42 health projects were launched including five major hospitals creating 5,384 Jobs, benefiting 1.3 million people.

Winning hearts and minds

As part of military strategy and especially after APS attack a major drive was launched to win hearts and minds of the people. These include:-

  • Re-settlement of displaced population back to cleared zones. Out of 3.68 million displaced people, 95% have been rehabilitated.
  • Development of infrastructure including communication networks (Roads, bridges, telecom etc).
  • Rebuilding of affected towns and villages including homes and markets.
  • Building an entire fabric of Social System including schools, Cadet Colleges, hospitals, dispensaries, water supply schemes, social welfare centres and Mosques.
  • Perception management campaign to address the trauma suffered by displaced people, especially those who lost their dear ones. This also included counter-propaganda campaign to rebut the narrative of chaos generators and doomsday soothsayers.
  • In order to mainstream dejected cadres who wanted to fall back to normal life, a complete network of Terrorists Rehab and Counter radicalization Centers, staffed by top psychiatrists and religious scholars was established in affected areas with positive results.

Peace and normalcy in FATA

Greater Pashtun wisdom has prevailed as the people have rejected the narrow ethnicity based slogans being sponsored from abroad and are showing resolve to stand with the state on road to peace, development and hope. With the grace of Allah Almighty and a long hard fight by Pak Army/LEAs, supported by resilient people, FATA is back to normalcy and is becoming a thriving hub of economy and tourism. FATA has also seen sports activity and the brave people are contributing to sports at National and International level.

Development projects in education, health and social development include following:-

  • 336 school restored and construed.
  • 2500 students undergoing education in Cadet Colleges.
  • 37 health facilities constructed.
  • 70 new business hubs and 3000 shops.
  • First Agri park of Pakistan at Wana.

Merger of FATA as part of KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)

The biggest outcome of this long war has been mainstreaming of FATA into National Politics. An epoch making decision by the top Politic-Military leadership paved way for inclusion of FATA into KP and despite same resistance from spoilers it has proceeded as per plan:-

  • FATA agencies have become regular districts and writ of the state in from of administrative and legal control has been established. Prime Minister Imran Khan and COAS General Bajwa have repeatedly expressed their resolve for development of the erstwhile FATA. Army has given its share of Rs 100 Billion for the development works in erstwhile FATA and Balochistan.
  • In an unprecedented move, KP Government with the cooperation of Centre, has allocated Rs 162 billion for the merged tribal districts in the 2019-20 budget with the development outlay totaling at Rs 100 billion. Rs 5 billion have been earmarked for 7 projects under the Tribal Areas Electric Supply Company (TESCO), Rs 4 Billion for energy and power on Chapari Charkhel hydropower project in Kurram tribal district, RS 1 Billion for launch of Rescue 1122 service in the Frontier Regions and development of industries in the current year. Over Rs1 billion have been reserved for the Insaf Rozgar Scheme in the region.
  • Government has also extended Sehat Insaf Card (Rs 750,000 per family) for all families of erstwhile FATA. A network of roads, check dams to avoid floods, promotion of tourism, establishment of small industrial zones (Bajaur and Mohmand Districts) educational facilities in all districts including a medical college in Kurram, sports facilities and solarisation of mosques and tube wells will be spread in Merged Districts.
  • FATA districts are going to develop on a positive trajectory of welfare and development. Despite some political irritants like PTM, FATA has crossed the Rubicon of perpetual instability and crises and will become an icon of success in the longest war faced by Pakistan.
  • The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court has already been extended to ex-Fata, but setting up a judicial structure costing Rs. 14 billion is taking time. Government intends completing court rooms by end of current year. The police system has already been introduced in tribal areas which is improving gradually. The merger would not only benefit the people of FATA, but would also strengthen the country.
  • The present merger is a major development in the history of Pakistan. There are massive opportunities waiting for the people of erstwhile FATA. As per the claims of Chief Minister, services of most KP government departments had been extended to the tribal districts and further practical steps are being taken to complete the merger.
  • Governor Shah Farman has claimed that merger work initially supposed to consume five years was done in just five months. Government intends to hold local bodies’ elections soon after the provincial elections. Difficulties are obvious as the erstwhile FATA has been administered under special laws and the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) for 117 long years and getting accustomed to the new system will take time.

Elections in FATA, a testament to resilience of people of Pakistan

People are about to use their votes to directly elect 16 members to represent them in KPK assembly. Region will also have 4 indirectly elected women and 1 minority member in KPK assembly. The nation has expressed the resolve to spend over 100 Billion Rupees per year for next ten years in the erstwhile FATA with the aim to bring the area and its people at par with rest of Pakistan thus granting them all rights enjoyed by other citizens of the country. All parties have fielded hundreds of candidates and now a days FATA districts are bustling with political activities, rallies and election campaign.

The future

Pakistan’s success in this long and hard war (since 2002) has come about through resolve of politico-military leadership, pursuit of policy objectives, sacrifices by Army, LEAs and the people of Pakistan (Especially those from former FATA and KP) and the fact that Pakistanis are a resilient nation. The victory of Pakistan Army and LEAs has been acknowledged as one of the major success stories of  21st Century Hybrid Warfare. No wonder demand for Pakistan Army to train other militaries has increased and  Pakistan is playing the role of a mentor in Middle East, Africa and South Central Asia. Pakistan can offer her expertise and services to entire international community in  how to conceive, train and conduct a defensive war against Hybrid Warfare.

Pakistan has faced extended periods of difficulties over last two decades. After facing a blame game for entire duration, the world at large is admitting and appreciating the role of Pakistan for hope of peace in Afghanistan. The entire leadership of the world from the US to Russia and from Arab World to China is eager to stand alongside Pakistan. Pakistan has successfully undermined the proxies launched by its enemies, who now stand isolated and surprised.

Peace in Afghanistan will open unique opportunities for the people of erstwhile FATA. It is important for the Government to remain focused on provision of services and for the nation to stand alongside with the deprived people of former FATA. Similarly, it is expected from greater Pashtun and tribal wisdom not to let this great opportunity get wasted in shallow and hollow slogans of hate, division and narrow ethnicity. Let us all grab the opportunity together to move on the road to peace, development and hope with unity, and collective wisdom.

Mati-Ullah is the Online Editor For DND. He is the real man to handle the team around the Country and get news from them and provide to you instantly.

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