Although the FATA Reforms Commission proposes partially representative agency councils, political parties and FATA elders reject the recommendation and demand fully democratic elected local government* system in Pakistan’s tribal areas. This article is part of a series analyzing the Commission’s draft proposal.
Established by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governor last year, the FATA Reforms Commission (FRC) submitted its interim report on May 1, 2015 to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat for review. Political party leaders, FATA elders, lawyers and parliamentarians have all expressed dissatisfaction with the Commission’s failure to sufficiently address the fundamental reform issues facing the region, specifically the future status of FATA and amendments to Article 247 of the constitution.
Parties and elders have also expressed discontent with the proposed changes in local governance in FATA, saying that the Commission proposal leaves too much control in the hands of the KP governor and political agents.
Critics also argue that the proposed local system is not truly representative and would fail to give sufficient powers to the people of FATA.
The Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms (FATA Committee), representing ten mainstream parties, also made recommendations in response to the 2012 draft FATA local government regulation released by the FATA Secretariat. Those recommendations (http://bit.ly/fatalocalbodies) also focused on the draft regulation’s failure to take sufficient power from political agents and place it in the hands of FATA residents as is being done in the four provinces.
Furthermore, a recommendation stating that “local bodies elections should be held in FATA” was included in the FATA Committee’s December 2013 comprehensive 11-point proposal for reform in the tribal areas. ANP, JI, JUI-F, MQM, NP, PML, PML-N, PPP, PTI and QWP are represented on the FATA Committee and have complete support from party leadership.
FRC Proposes Agency and Governor’s Council
The Commission proposal does not recommend the introduction of a complete local government system, citing the lack of an updated population census as the main reason for delaying implementation.
However, as a precursor to the local bodies in FATA and acknowledging that the people of FATA have not been included in the identification of development needs or in the decision making process for development schemes, the Commission recommends agency/FR councils and a governor’s council at the FATA level with partial representation by the people of FATA and governor nominations. The proposed timeframe for agency/FR councils and the governor’s council is for the interim period of two years.
The Commission chairman also cites a need for citizen involvement to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of resources in FATA.
Although not stated explicitly, the Commission proposal implies that a more complete local governance system would be enacted and implemented in FATA after the interim period (in May 2017 if Commission reforms were implemented immediately). At this time, the interim agency/FR councils would be replaced by the new system and the composition of the governor’s council would shift to have 90 percent of council members elected. The remaining 10 percent of governor’s council members would be nominated by the KP governor. Additional details regarding the proposed composition of agency/FR and governor’s councils are included below.
The FRC draft summary does not mention the draft FATA Local Government Regulation produced by the FATA Secretariat in 2012 and does not state if the implied 2017 local government system should be based on the 2012 draft or if it should have an alternative structure. The FATA Committee made detailed recommendations (http://bit.ly/fatalocalbodies) to improve the 2012 draft but did not receive any formal response from government.
Proposed Agency/FR Councils
Proposed agency councils would include between 20 and 25 members and FR councils between 9 and 11 members, based on the population of each administrative unit. Local representatives would be elected based on the existing nikhat system (traditional means of distributing perks and privileges in FATA by the political administration). The Commission proposal summary does not specify if these members would be elected by all residents under universal suffrage or not. Neither does it specify who would be eligible as a candidate for agency/FR council election.
Each agency’s elected members of parliament and four technocrats (including women) nominated by the KP governor would also be members of each council. The respective political agent (for agencies) or deputy commissioner (for FRs) would serve as chairman of each council and the vice chairman would be elected by all council members. Agency/FR councils would serve for the interim period of two years.
Based on the proposed composition, between 81 and 84 percent of agency council members would be elected during the interim period, depending on population and the number of parliamentarians in each agency. Between 64 and 71 percent of FR council members would be elected.
The Commission proposal summary does not clearly indicate what happens to agency/FR councils when the interim period ends two years following implementation. The draft proposal also does not indicate what powers agency/FR councils would hold or what the division of responsibility would be between councils and the political administration.
Media reports indicate, however, that “councils would be the decisive body at the agency level for development schemes”.
Therefore, it is not possible to assess whether or not the partially representative councils would provide any real devolution of powers as envisioned in the Constitution of Pakistan for local bodies in the four provinces.
Political parties and FATA elders have sharply criticized the proposed agency councils, specifically raising concerns regarding the powers of the councils and the fact that political agents would serve as chairpersons of the councils. Furthermore, parties insist that any new local government system should be on the basis of complete adult franchise allowing all FATA residents to vote and that the system permit political party candidates to compete as in FATA elections for National Assembly.
Proposed Governor’s Council
The Commission also recommends a new governor’s council at the FATA level to advise the KP governor, who would serve as the council chairman. Media reports indicate that the council would meet every three months to review development projects, changes in laws and to give advice on important policy decisions. The proposed goal of the council is to strengthen the link between the people of FATA and the state.
The council would not, however, have any legislative or administrative authority, but would only act as an advisory group.
As a result and due to the fact that none of its members would be directly elected, the governor’s council is not a form of representative governance, but only a step in that direction.
The proposed council would represent, however, a small improvement over the current practice of relying only on hand-picked Maliks and elders supportive of the political administration for advising government. The composition of the proposed governor’s council during the two-year interim period would include 12 members:
- one representative from each agency and a total of two from all FRs combined (the indirectly elected vice chairman of each agency/FR council would fill this member slot during the interim period of two years);
- five experts from FATA, including two women and one minority (nominated by the KP governor);
- Federal Secretary of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON);
- Federal Secretary of Finance;
- Federal Secretary of Interior;
- Federal Secretary of Planning, Development and Reform;
- KP Chief Secretary; and
- Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) for FATA.
The Commission recommends that after the interim period of two years (in approximately May 2017 if proposed reforms are implemented immediately), the governor’s council composition would shift to become a more representative body and that 90 percent of its members would be elected.
The proposal summary does not indicate the mechanism for election of members or whether or not the council should acquire any legislative or administrative authority following the interim period.
Note: This article is part of a series analyzing the Commission’s draft proposal. Analysis is based on a distributed summary of Commission recommendations and media reports as the complete proposal document has not been distributed publicly for comment. On the date this article was published, the Commission proposal was with the prime minister for his review.
*Click here to read more articles about recommendations for local government in FATA.