Unlike the rest of Pakistan, the Federally Administered TribalAreas (FATA) is politically, administratively and legally governed under aspecial set of legal and administrative injunctions under the colonial era’sFrontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Hence, the enactment, enforcement andadjudication of laws in FATA are unique in the national and internationalcontext. While legislation framed by elected representatives is inapplicable,the FCR, as a legal framework does not have provisions for human rightssafeguards enshrined in national and provincial laws and the constitution ofPakistan. FATA has hence been in the grip of violent conflicts with nationaland regional repercussions. This has, in more recent times, resulted in therealization to mainstream the region with the Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistanconstituting a high-level committee on reforms, the committee on FATA reforms(CFR). The committee, following from a series of consultations with relevantstakeholders has come up with a set of priority reforms at the core of which isthe integration or merger of FATA with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinceafter a transition period of five years.

As an overarchingtransformation and improvement agenda, the reforms will attempt to change thesocio-economic, political and constitutional landscape of FATA. Theimplementation of the reforms however is happening in a high flux environmentcharacterized by geopolitical re-alignment, increased focus of militants on themiddle east, potential change in the US policy towards the region and massiveinvestment in the region in the form of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC);among others, all in a period of 5 years. Of the above, the coincidence of theCPEC and FATA’s integration are of paramount policy significance for Pakistan. Thispolicy research will focus on the integration of FATA and the CPEC, given thecontext, with particular emphasis on what possible benefits both CPEC and theintegration of FATA bring together.  While the CFR proposal do notmake any explicit reference to CPEC nor is there any CPEC related investmentproject highlighted by the federal government so far, the FATA reforms and CPECcan go hand in hand in bringing about historical changes in the security anddevelopment landscape of Pakistan and the region. Integration of FATA, ifsuccessfully undertaken as proposed, will have a positive bearing on Pakistan’sinternal security eventually building confidence for CPEC related investments.

The priority reform agenda items including security, legal and constitutionalreforms, land settlement and most importantly, the 10-year socioeconomic plan,which for the first time in the history of FATA related reforms, commits to a3% NFC allocation have all the potential to bring the region at par with therest of Pakistan. CPEC related investments also have the potential to bridge gapsin sectoral allocations for the 10-year plan. As the integration promiseseconomic mainstreaming of FATA it carries great potential in enriching thetrade corridors across the border to central Asia and beyond. This would alsomean, possibility of establishing independent economic zones in the region. Asthe transition moves ahead, CPEC and allied investments in KP and other partsof Pakistan also have potential benefits of cementing social and economiccohesion through absorbing the increasing number of skilled and semi-killedyouth. Given Pakistan’s securitynarrative, multiple regional and global interests and fluid conflict dynamics,the introduction of reforms in FATA of which integration with KP is a desiredlogical outcome, have not been easy. While some of the key hurdles have beenovercome, the implementation of the committee’s agenda still faces some keychallenges.

These, inter alia, include, delays caused by lack of clearlyidentified plans, institutional capacity and frameworks; the illicit trade andinformal economy as well as abolition of the ‘rahdari system’; and relationship with Afghanistan carrying foreignpolicy implications for FATA integration and the viability hence of the CPEC. While there has been resistancefrom those with stake in the status quo, there have also been pro-reformnarratives led by the federal government’s firm commitment, which haveultimately led to political consensus on the agenda. The government also seemsto have the resolve to settle the issue of the Temporarily Displaced Persons(TDPs) through an annual allocation of around 90 billion PKR.  The 10-year plan which commits to allocatePKR 100 billion per year focuses on natural resource management, industrialdevelopment, private investment as well as planned urbanization in FATA,developments that can provide both a level playing ground for the reformprocess as well as triggers for CPEC related investments and longer-termstability in the region. 

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