The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is a tribal region in the northwest of Pakistan, lying between the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the north and east, Balochistan to the south, and the neighbouring country of Afghanistan to the west. The territory is almost exclusively inhabited by various Pashtun tribes. FATA comprises of seven tribal Agencies and six Frontier Regions. These Agencies and Frontier Regions are as follow:
- Bajaur Agency
- Mohmand Agency
- Khyber Agency
- Orakzai Agency
- Kurram Agency
- North Waziristan Agency
- South Waziristan Agency
- Frontier Region Peshawar
- Frontier Region Kohat
- Frontier Region Bannu
- Frontier Region Lakki Marwat
- Frontier Region Tank
- Frontier Region Dera Ismail Khan
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has seen many phases during ‘The March of Times’. From Alexander the great, who crossed these treacherous passes in 326 BC to the British who had their first contact with the sub-continent in the early 1600s, almost all invaders while realizing the strategic location of these areas used it as a gateway to the sub-continent, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Being aware of the geo-strategic importance of the tribal areas, almost all conquerors wanted a conquest of FATA but after analyzing the fiercely independent nature of the tribesmen, they entered into lose treaties with the tribesmen which left the affairs of the natives of these areas to themselves in return for not stirring trouble for the conquerors.
Historically, the tribal areas have had a profound impact on the events on both sides of the Durand line. We, therefore, see the mincing machine of Tamerlane in Khyber Agency and find a mention of Bajaur in the “Tuzk-e-Baburi” of Babur. British military academies still teach lessons at military strategy of the “Shahur Tanga” in South Waziristan when a band of ill-equipped Mahsud tribesmen wiped out an entire brigade of the British Army through their superior strategy and stealth.
Emirs of Afghanistan ranging from Bacha Saka who was installed on the throne in Kabul by the tribesmen to the artfully political Abdur Rehman relied heavily on the goodwill of the people of the tribal areas.
Imperial Britain, which was playing ‘the Great Game’ with Czarist Russia, followed two set of policies – ‘the closed door policy’ and ‘the forward policy.’ The hallmark of ‘the closed door policy’ was that Britian used the Hotis of Mardan, the Arbabs of Peshawar, the Khans of Hangu and the Nawabs of Tank as intermediaries between them and the tribesmen for settling disputes and other issues.
In the 1870s, the British adopted the ‘forward policy’ as a result of which they established the Political Agencies of Khyber, Kurram, North and South Waziristan Agencies with their own Political Agents installed inside the Agencies and raised the Frontier Corps. Attaching the highest priority to the administration of the tribal areas, they posted some of their finest officers as Political Agents- luminaries and trailblazers like Nicholson, Warburton, Olaf Caroe and J.O.S Donald- just to name a few. However, they allowed the tribesmen their autonomy and independence and didn’t interfere in their internal affairs.
Post independence, the tribal areas remained peaceful even after the Quaid-e-Azam withdrew the troops stationed there at Agency Headquarters. FATA came to the international limelight after 9/11 and the ensuing influx of the miscreants from Afghanistan. Resultantly, the Govt. of Pakistan had to move in regular troops, deploy them on the Pak-Afghan border to flush out the militants, both foreign and local.
Regional and international peace is tied to peace in FATA. It is a huge challenge for the Govt. of Pakistan and the international community to work for durable peace in these areas through massive development initiatives with the main thrust on education and job creation which shall help the youth being weaned away from falling into the hands of extremists and militants.
“ The desire for peace comes as naturally to the dwellers of the tribal areas as it is innate amongst those who live in Washington or Tokyo. All that is required is the provision of an environment which enables them to live peacefully. Educate us, give us jobs and we shall always remain the custodians of your lands and shall manifest our loyalty to Pakistan as we have done throughout”-an elder’s words while addressing a jirga held with Governor, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They say that every calamity brings alongwith itself an opportunity also. The Government of Pakistan can capitalize on the situation in FATA and can alter the course of history by initiating massive development projects, thus enabling the tribesmen to get education and jobs and ensuring durable peace in the process by tying their feet to the ground.