Local Governance in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas

The 14th of August 2012 was a very special day for the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On that day, the President of Pakistan signed the FATA Local Government Regulation 2012; thus kindling hope for self-governance in FATA.

With an area of 27,220 sq. km and a population of 4.02 million[1], FATA comprises seven Tribal Agencies and six Frontier Regions situated along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. FATA is the least developed region in Pakistan with 60 percent of its people living below the poverty line. It consistently ranks lowest in Pakistan across human development indicators in health, education, sanitation and other key areas[2].

Administratively, FATA is under the direct executive authority of the Federation[3]. It is represented in the National Assembly by 12 members[4] and in the Senate by 8 members[5]; however, they have no power to make laws for their own area. The adult franchise was extended to FATA in 1996. Despite law and order problems, voter turnout for general elections in FATA increased from 31 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2013[6].

The Local Government Regulation 2012 provides for Municipal Committees (MCs) for each town, where general members of the MC shall be directly elected based on adult franchise and joint electorate and other members elected indirectly by the elected members[7]. MCs have been given control of a wide range of municipal services which inter alia include water supply, sanitation, natural resource conservation, waste management, public roads, traffic signals, pavements and lighting, public parks, billboards, hoardings, fire-fighting, master planning, markets, urban infrastructure, environment and construction, maintenance and development. The Regulation allows local councils to generate revenue by imposing property taxes and charges for municipal services.

The new Regulation is entirely different from the colonial system of governance by Maliks, the local elders appointed by the federal government to support local governance. It is likely to encourage greater participation of poor and marginalised segments of society through their representatives who will be accountable to them, and to deliver participatory self-governance to the marginalised, poor populations in FATA.

However, better governments don’t emerge automatically. The proposed MCs can only grow as ‘efficient service providers’ and ‘agents of development’ in tribal areas if there is a strong and effective legal framework. Unlike other Statutes, this Regulation has not been made effective immediately; rather it has been left to the discretion of the Governor to enforce it when he deems fit. The power of the Governor to suspend and dissolve MCs is also contested. Moreover, the relationship between Political Agents and the MCs and the chain of administrative and budgetary command also need to be defined[8]. Despite all these and such other concerns, it is high time that the Regulation be enforced in letter and spirit to test it on ground.

The Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms, which held a series of consultative sessions on the issue of FATA reforms and presented their 11 unanimous recommendations, also recommended that local government elections be held in tribal areas[9].

FATA, once famous for its peace and tranquility, culture and hospitality, has suffered a lot in the recent past due to militancy. The roll out of the local government system in FATA will not only bring the government closer to the public, but will also foster mutual trust and confidence and open a new chapter of development for the people of FATA.

[1] Post Crisis Needs Assessment of KP and FATA

[2] Post Crisis Needs Assessment of KP and FATA

[3] Art. 247 of the Constitution of Pakistan

[4] Art. 51 of the Constitution of Pakistan

[5] Art. 59 of the Constitution of Pakistan

[6] Election Commission of Pakistan, available at: http://ecp.gov.pk/Misc/GE-2013-Graphs/02_na_turnout_comparison.png

[7] FATA Local Government Regulation 2012

[8] Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/514018/local-government-fata-reforms-in-limbo-as-parties-await-govt-response/

[9] Source: http://slideshare.net/FATAparties/recommendations-member-list-fata-committee-lahore-v7-2013-1211

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