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Tribal Areas Reform in Pakistan

A couple of months ago, the leadership of the tribal areas changed.  Governor Aurakzai, a former army general replaced Commander Khalil.  Aurakzai and tribal areas know each other well; besides being a tribesman himself, it was Aurakzai who led the army into the tribal areas in 2000; the first time that this happened in Pakistan’s 60 years history. 

         Imtiaz Sahibzada’s Tribal Areas Reform Package preceded the change of Governors, and is now under implementation.  Two of its principle recommendations are worth a look. The first one deals with resurrecting the office of the political agent, who is the chief administrator of each of Pakistan’s seven tribal areas.  The other is to accelerate economic and social development within the framework of a re-organized tribal governance system. This includes a strengthened secretariat and breaking of linkages with the district and provincial administration of NWFP. Some risks of the later policy  aspect have not been adequately addressed and will result in future difficulties. NWFP and tribal areas were closely integrated at 3 levels; this helped in the seamless working of the system, when joint problems like kidnapping, land disputes, sabotage or dispute over women occurred. When such occurrences took place, officer to officer coordination occurred since both were answerable to a common Commissioner, [a regional coordinator], or the Home Secretary,  whose responsibility was to secure the peace of the district and the border, and finally the Chief Secretary, who as head of the civil service ensured that justice, equity and law and order prevailed.

           The local government reform has removed the tier of the Commissioner, so the district and tribal administrators are without a neutral senior coordinator.   The tribal area has its own Secretary Security so the role of the provincial Home Secretary is terminated. The Governor, who is responsible for tribal areas, is only answerable to the President of Pakistan; there is no assembly to judge his performance nor is he answerable for his conduct to any other institution. Secondly, recent Governors have adopted a hands on administrative approach becoming a supra political agent in the process. This runs against the grain of management theory; the supervisor must not be the implementer. Secondly, the administrative separation from the provincial bureaucracy has ousted the wisdom based advice of the Chief Secretary, NWFP and other more experienced development experts within the provincial government.

           With the simultaneous elimination of the post of district magistrate and executive magistracy from districts under the Local Government Reform 2001, a big control gap has appeared encouraging crime.  The number of dacoities, robberies, kidnappings for ransom, murders and criminals taking refuge in tribal areas has increased dramatically. The peace of NWFP border districts is tenuous.  Both the police and district administrators are at a loss what to do. Another negative side effect has been the proliferation of weapons for self protection within the districts.  Some southern NWFP districts bordering Waziristan are witnessing the emergence of Taliban style leadership imposing their Salafist vision of society; they want the revival of the original and pure practice of Islam as practiced during the times of the first four caliphs of Islam. This would not happen had there been an executive magistracy. It is now evident that with the deepening of the administrative separation, the tribal areas will emerge as a separate province of Pakistan. The previous vision of its merger into the NWFP is receding. Is this an objective of the tribal reforms? Imtiaz Sahibzada has not answered this question in his report. 

          The second pivotal objective of reforms is to improve the social and human development indices in tribal areas.  A preliminary perusal of the proposed interventions now under planning show plenty of raw will, but less a strategy for modernizing tribal areas.  It will pay dividends, if the following recommendations are implemented;

  • In order to provide time for reflection in the reform context, it is important not to hurry the process and waste money; the planners must give themselves a year’s time to prepare a mid-term 4 year plan.  In the first introductory phase, a 1 year investment plan implemented, while the development of the package of reforms and institution building takes place.
  • With the first year development work underway, the reform can begin in earnest by starting a consultative process of stake holders including tribesmen, tribal civil society, planners, government officers, and donors.  The desired direction of development will become evident and it will need to be people rather than state or contractor driven. IUCN Peshawar has the expertise and experience to assist based on their past knowledge in developing the Sarhad Sustainable Development Strategy.
  • Simultaneously, it is important that a detailed household Livelihood Security Survey is undertaken so that a complete picture of expenditures threatening income security is available and remedy is provided through the development strategy. This survey will include a poverty analysis.  Such a survey is different from the multiple indicators cluster survey (MICs), which provides a rough indication of levels of comparative development related to the availability of facilities and services only. 
  • A fast track approach must be taken for the creation of community organizations for ownership of social sector institutions. Sarhad Rural Support Corporation should be tasked to start micro-credit, particularly for women in the livestock sector.
  • SMEDA should develop small businesses and industry in tribal areas and credit be provided for small business development. They should assist in the development of entrepreneurial skills in tribal areas.
  • A special task force should be setup to encourage the growth of productive capital amongst tribesmen.  It should recommend measures for firming up land title to develop bankable collaterals. Banking and commercial laws reforms are badly needed to boost investment in industry. This will assist in modernization and combating poverty.
  • The proposed Tribal Development Authority should begin development of industrial clusters based on resource endowment of specific areas;  The chairman of the TDA should be hired from the private sector and must be a thorough professional attuned to running commercial operations.
  • It is time to sit with USAID and the US Department of Trade to formulate a holistic regional plan for tribal areas, NWFP and parts of Afghanistan; the Reconstruction Economic Zone announced by President Bush ought to be integrated into this framework.  Certain border districts of NWFP be examined for location of ROZ industry to generate employment for tribesmen in the initial phase; the product of such industry is expected to receive preferential entry to the USmarket.
  • A network of road and railways connected with the Pakistan railway network and the Indus Highway must be expanded to brush aside the isolation of tribal areas.
  • A special program for developing of vocational skills should be launched right at the start so that a trained pool of basic skills is available for future needs.
  • Issues of energy and tariff need to be addressed, since they could hinder development.
  • I urge that the tribal areas reform report should be presented to the National Assembly for debate and discussion.

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