By Yaqoob Khan Bangash
Since its inception Pakistan has always decried that ‘external forces’ are trying to destabilise and dismember it.
This fear has led the state to become suspicious of all regional movements for rights or autonomy, and everything which does not fit the state’s narrative. This mind-set has not only promoted conspiracy theories and made stars out of conspiracy theorists; it has also led Pakistan to become a prisoner to its own fears. Pakistan’s fears of ‘external forces’ has reached such dramatic, and dare I say, delusional, levels that it has stopped the country from realising that a lot of its internal fissures are of its own creation and can be amicably resolved if an attempt is made.
After all, East Pakistan did not separate primarily due to Indian intervention; India intervened only after the Army refused to accept the verdict of the people in the first general election of Pakistan. Has anyone ever thought that if Mujibur Rahman had become the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, would Pakistan have dismembered? Pakistan’s schizophrenia is the root cause of most of its woes and the country’s stout refusal to deal with it will ensure that it remains in this ill state.
One of the most important reasons why Pakistan is unstable is that different parts of the country still have different laws governing it. There is a different law for ‘settled areas,’ a different regime for ‘tribal areas,’ another code for the ‘Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA],’ a different law for ‘Gilgit Baltistan’ and even a separate constitution for ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’. With at least five different legal structures in Pakistan, with the last two not even within the ambit of the constitution of Pakistan, does Pakistan need enemies from outside to destabilise it?
It is true that Pakistan inherited most of these different jurisdictions. The British governed their empire with different sets of rules and laws for different areas. Hence the three presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay had a slightly different regime than the United Provinces, and the Punjab further differed from them all.
However, those differences were due to historical circumstances, and the policy of the British was to upgrade and harmonise laws, and status, with time. So the Punjab began as a province under a Lieutenant Governor in 1853, and was upgraded to a full Governor’s province in 1919. Similarly, the erstwhile North West Frontier Province was separated from the Punjab in 1901 as a Chief Commissioner’s province and was upgraded to a full Governor’s province in 1937. Hence, as developments took place the British responded and brought about improvements in governance.
The choice on FATA is simple. Either a) make FATA a separate province, or b) merge it fully with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The will of the people of FATA in this should be paramount and it should not be decided far away in Islamabad
But the British left the Indian Empire in 1947 and for the last 70 years we have been masters of our own destiny. However, we have steadfastly refused to improve the lives of the people, and consistently prevented them from becoming full citizens of an independent country. British rule was non-representative imperial rule, but we have perpetuated that same rule in FATA, Gilgit Baltistan and even Azad Jammu and Kashmir. To date the Supreme Court of Pakistan has no jurisdiction over these areas, and the last two areas are not even mentioned in the constitution of Pakistan and hence their residents are not even citizens of Pakistan! So when we are ourselves treating large parts of our country as a colony, with little or no citizenship rights, do we need foreign intervention to subvert our state? We are doing it willingly ourselves!
The recent debate about status of FATA is simply laughable. The likes of this debate should have happened in 1957 not 2017. If seventy years down the line we are still unsure how to make some people full citizens of our country then we simply do not deserve to be free. Rather than apologising to the people of FATA for the inordinate delay in making them full citizens, we are still running around in circles about it. Seventy years after independence we cannot blame the British for the sorry state of FATA, only ourselves.
The choice on FATA is simple. Either a) Make FATA a separate full province, or b) merge it fully with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The will of the people of FATA in this should be paramount and it should not be decided by far away Islamabad. Therefore, the above two options should be presented to the people of FATA in a referendum, and their will immediately accepted. There should be no two ways about it. Nearly fifty years after the powers that are ignored the will of the people, we have still to learn the lesson that democracy is the only option. So ask the people of FATA and implement their will. It is high time that the people of FATA become full citizens of the country they agreed to become part of 70 years ago.