Giving a Voice
Title: FATA: Voices of the Unheard Author: Amina Khan Publisher: Lambert Academic Publishing (May 2011) Pages: 68, Paperback Price: PKR. 3885 ISBN: 9783844397376
Amina Khan’s “FATA: Voices of the Unheard” looks at the troubled region of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and sheds light on the reasons why important political and social reforms in FATA are highly challenging and, thus far, have been elusive. Her vision of a way forward for FATA is a call to the Pakistani government for long-overdue action in bringing
…the people of FATA have been denied access to democracy, economic opportunities and human rights that other Pakistanis have.
basic, structural reforms to FATA and integrating it with the rest of Pakistan.
Khan traces these challenges back to governing structures, largely in place since colonial rule, and a deeply embedded culture that differs from other regions in Pakistan. Khan notes that since “Pakhtunwali,” the way of the Pakhtuns, dominates life in the FATA and has done so for centuries, external entities trying to exert power over this region have consistently been met with opposition. Under the British, the FATA was semi-autonomous and remained so after partition. As a result of this status, the people of FATA have been denied access to democracy, economic opportunities and human rights that other Pakistanis have. Additionally, the lack of effective governance has made FATA a place where exiled groups may seek refuge. Compounding internal problems, FATA has been negatively affected by international events, such as the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets and, later, the Americans and NATO forces.
Khan analyzes the experience of FATA using a theoretical framework. She uses Path Dependency Theory and its two main components, “history matters” and “increasing returns.” Path Dependency Theory holds that state institutions structure activities around established paths and that deviating from these paths is costly, especially as time passes and the path is more deeply institutionalized. Because the current problems in FATA have historical roots, it will take significant, costly measures in order to put FATA on a different path. Khan asserts that reforms have been absent in FATA since politicians lack the will to institute them in consideration of other issues deemed more pressing. Thus, easy, short-term fixes tend to be applied that are later proved to be inadequate.
In the concluding section,
Khan applies her research to offer a way forward in FATA. The strongest recommendations deal with improving governance and creating an atmosphere that can attract economic opportunities. Her policy proposals are strong because they consider a wide-range of social, economic and political factors in FATA. In referring to the international community’s role in assisting FATA’S development, Khan describes actions that they should refrain from but fails to explain what their new behaviors should be beyond providing international assistance to implement reforms. If covert operations and cross-border operations conducted militarily are violations of the sovereignty of Pakistan and should not be used, what capabilities is Pakistan able to employ in dealing with militants within its borders?
“Voices of the Unheard” provides readers with a succinct and easily read history of the FATA that addresses the myriad of complexi- ties surrounding the region. It is beneficial to anyone seeking to understand this region and why the challenges it presents are impor- tant to address. In her recommendations for a way forward, Amina Khan strongly makes the case for being proactive, but accurately recognizes that any meaningful policy towards FATA will require “an unprecedented display of vision and political sagacity” on the part of the government. Troubles in FATA will persist until root causes are addressed and this must be fully internalized by Pakistan’s government and the international community if it is serious about creating a comprehensive, lasting policy toward the region.
Reviewed by Jill Carney