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Equal citizenship for FATA and GB

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are home to around five million Pakistanis. Over the last four decades, many born and raised in the region were forced to migrate due to turmoil that was not of their own making.
These women, men and children must have been given all constitutional rights that flow from citizenship of a state the moment these rights were given to Pakistanis in rest of the country. That it did not happen will, and must, remain inscribed in our political history as a travesty of the highest order.
Now that the federal government, the Parliament and unelected state institutions have all recognised the need for ‘mainstreaming’ FATA, it is imperative that the issue should be resolved, as much as possible, in accordance with the wishes of the FATA residents.
Since there is no one forum that can claim to be the true representative of FATA residents, the matter needs to be resolved in consultation with various political and civil society groups that associate with the region. The two broad positions to have emerged so far are (i) FATA’s merger with Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP) and, (ii) a relatively less popular position articulated at the most recent rally on the issue by the JUI-F, seeking a provincial status for the region.
Regardless of which of these positions is finally agreed upon, the need of the hour is to expedite the process of mainstreaming. FATA residents have stayed with this country for 70 years without any of the basic constitutional rights that must be available to all members of a free national community. Let us ensure that the 71st year comes with a departure from this chequered political past. For that to happen, all groups that have raised a voice on the issue — including mainstream parties as well as civil society actors like the FATA Youth Jirga — must be listened to. The final plan must incorporate all legitimate demands, particularly those that stand to benefit marginalised groups like women and economically impoverished tribes and people.
The case of Gilgit-Baltistan isn’t much different either. The people of the region have lately protested an unfair tax regime. They are also demanding their fair share of political representation in the Pakistani federation.
The representatives of the region including political leaders — some of whom have unfairly been incarcerated over the years just for demanding a fair bargain with the federation — and civil society activists must be consulted in drawing a mainstreaming plan for GB. Let’s hope 2018 will end this apartheid that we have chosen to ignore for decades.



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PTI, MQM-P workers face off during by-polls in Karachi

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