By Ehsan Ullah Khan.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”, Buckminster Fuller.
The above-mentioned quote would make much more sense if it is directed towards current day Pakistan in general and FATA in particular. As for quite a long time the FATA FCR fracas is going the rounds, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon and anyone with the slightest of political ambition and even more narrow knowledge of the issue is blowing it out of proportion. But one part of the saga is blatantly ignored: if not FCR then what? A mismatch of a merger with KP?
FATA is one hell of a tricky place. Its lush green hills and snowcapped mountains giving it a facade of a utopian Eden, its population mostly comprises of uncouth, illiterate, ragtag simpletons with a profound penchant for freedom bordering on subversion and outright rebellion. So keeping in view the deceptive and volatile nature of FATA, the Frontier Crimes Regulation was implemented in 1901 by the British Raj. A brain child of British conception, FCR was born out of the womb of Murderous Outrages Regulation of 1877 – which also owed its existence to the need for a countermeasure against Pakhtun opposition to the Raj. With a higher intensity of intrigue and expediency FCR was specifically designed to rein in the rebellious elements embedded in FATA culture. The system served them (British) satisfactory if not well but as they say “something is always better than nothing”.
Time elapsed. And now that the Regulations have become a cause of much dismay and resentment for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Higher Authorities and lethargic Legislators have decided to scrap the system for the “good intentioned” better of the people. But they seem to be at loss for an answer regarding the question of possible alternatives for FCR. To cover up the void, a merger with KP is projected as a feasible solution, even though it goes against the demographics and distinct nature of FATA. Albeit if there is an alternative – like the Riwaj Act, no one is sure about the efficacy of it.
Pakistan seems to be devoid of parallel policies. And it has got good reasons to be so. The higher in hierarchy being busy inaugurating development projects three times over again, the legislators have made a hobby of hurling abuses at each other. Adding more to the misery, Pakistan also lacks the luxury of a think tank culture. In the western world, the persnickety and fastidious work of policymaking is most of the times outsourced to well-developed and resourceful think tanks. Organizations like RAND and the Brookings Institution have been guiding western policies for quite a long time. Such settings spare the Administration the labor to dredge up minute details, promote an environment of critical intellectual thought and refutes false facets through thorough research.
The higher in hierarchy will never mend. So, for now, all bloviating about the British system crippling FATA are futile. It is until the legislators realize that they would do more good by coming up with viable systems to implement, or the government suddenly starts to appreciate the importance of think tanks to churn out blue-prints for future policies and patronize them, or a miracle happens, that issues like FCR would remain to rage on.
Mr. Ehsan Ullah Khan is associated with School of Economics, Quaid e Azam University.