Federally Administered Tribal Areas

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA; Pashto: فدرالي قبايلي سيمې; Urdu: وفاق کے زیر انتظام قبائلی علاقہ جات) was a semi-autonomous tribal region in northwestern Pakistan that existed from 1947 until being merged with neighboring province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018. It consisted of seven tribal agencies (districts) and six frontier regions, and were directly governed by Pakistan's federal government through a special set of laws called the Frontier Crimes Regulations. It bordered Pakistan's provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to the east and south, and Afghanistan's provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost and Paktika to the west and north. The territory is almost exclusively inhabited by the Pashtun, who also live in the neighbouring provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northern Balochistan, and straddle across the border into Afghanistan. They are mostly Muslim.

Federally Administered Tribal Areas
Urdu: وفاق کے زیر انتظام قبائلی علاقہ جات
Wafāq kay zair Īnt̪ez̤ām Qabāylī ‘alāqē Jāt̪
Pashto: فدرالي قبايلي سيمې
Fed̪rālī Qabāyalī Sīmɪ
Autonomous territory of Pakistan
Coat of arms

Former Location of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas
14 August 1947
31 May 2018
Succeeded by
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Today part ofKhyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Since the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, the tribal areas are a major theatre of militancy and terrorism. Pakistan Army launched 10 operations against the Taliban since 2001, most recently Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. The operations have displaced about two million people from the tribal areas, as schools, hospitals, and homes have been destroyed in the war.[1] On 2 March 2017, the federal government considered a proposal to merge the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulations.[2] However, some political parties have opposed the merger, and called for the tribal areas to instead become a separate province of Pakistan.[1]

On 24 May 2018, the National Assembly of Pakistan voted in favour of an amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan for the FATA-KP merger which was approved by the Senate the following day.[3] Since the change was to affect the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was presented for approval in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on 27 May 2018, and passed with majority vote. On 28 May 2018, the President of Pakistan signed the FATA Interim Governance Regulation, a set of interim rules for FATA until it merges with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within a timeframe of two years.[4]

The 25th Amendment received assent from President Mamnoon Hussain on 31 May 2018, after which FATA was officially merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[5]


This article is part of the series
Former administrative units of Pakistan

Although the British never succeeded in completely calming unrest in the region,[6] it served as a buffer from unrest in Afghanistan.[7] The British Raj attempted to control the population of the annexed tribal regions with the Frontier Crimes Regulations, which gave considerable power to govern to local nobles so long as these nobles were willing to meet the needs of the British.[7][8][9] Due to the nobles placing unchecked discretionary power into the hands of the Political Agent, resulting in extensive human rights violations, the Frontier Crimes Regulations has come to be known as the "black law."[9]

Colonial period

In 193536, a Hindu-Muslim clash occurred over the abduction of a Hindu girl by a Muslim in Bannu. The tribesmen rallied around Mirzali Khan, a tribal leader in Waziristan, who was later given the title of "the Faqir of Ipi" by the British. Jihad was declared against the British. Mirzali Khan, with his huge lashkar (force), started a guerrilla warfare against the British forces in Waziristan.

In 1938, Mirzali Khan shifted from Ipi to Gurwek, a remote village in Waziristan on the Durand Line near Razmak, where he declared an independent state and continued the raids against the British forces. In June 1947, Mirzali Khan, along with his allies, including the Khudai Khidmatgars and members of the Provincial Assembly, declared the Bannu Resolution. The resolution demanded that the Pashtuns be given a choice to have an independent state of Pashtunistan, composing all Pashtun majority territories of British India, instead of being made to join Pakistan. However, the British Raj refused to comply with the demand of this resolution.[10][11] After the creation of Pakistan in August 1947, Mirzali Khan and his followers refused to recognise Pakistan, and launched a campaign against Pakistan. They continued their guerilla warfare against the new nation's government.[12] In 1950, they announced the creation of Pashtunistan as an independent nation. However, his popularity among the people of Waziristan declined over the years, with several jirgas in Waziristan deciding to support Pakistan.

Soon after Independence, the various tribes in the region entered into an agreement with the Government of Pakistan, pledging allegiance to the newly created state. Some 30 instruments of agreement were subsequently signed, strengthening this arrangement. Mohmand Agency was included in FATA in 1951, and Bajaur and Orakzai in 1973. The agreement, signed at the time of independence, did not include political autonomy of the tribes. The instruments of agreement, signed in 1948, granted the tribal areas a special administrative status. Except where strategic considerations dictated, the tribal areas were allowed to retain their semi-autonomous status, exercising administrative authority based on tribal codes and traditional institutions. This unique system was crystallized in Pakistan’s Constitution of 1973.

After independence

The annexed areas continued to be governed through the Frontier Crimes Regulations after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, by the Dominion of Pakistan in 1947, and into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1956.[13] Even in the 1970s travellers through the Khyber Pass, such as those taking the Hippie Trail, were warned to stay close to the road because the Pakistani government had no control over the adjacent lands.

According to the United States Institute of Peace, the character of the region underwent a shift beginning in the 1980s. Mujahideen entered to fight against the jirgas as allies of the CIA Operation Cyclone; both were opposed to forces of the Soviet Union prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet Union.[14]

In 2001, the Tehrik-e-Taliban militants began entering into the region.[14] In 2003, Taliban forces sheltered in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas began crossing the border into Afghanistan, attacking military and police after the United States invasion.[15] Shkin, Afghanistan is a key location for these frequent battles. This heavily fortified military base has housed mostly American special operations forces since 2002 and is located six kilometers from the Pakistani border. It is considered the most dangerous location in Afghanistan.[16][17]

With the encouragement of the United States, 80,000 Pakistani troops entered the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in March 2004 to search for al-Qaeda operatives. They were met with fierce resistance from Pakistani Taliban.[15] It was not the elders, but the Pakistani Taliban who negotiated a truce with the army, an indication of the extent to which the Pakistani Taliban had taken control.[15] Troops entered the region, into South Waziristan and North Waziristan, eight more times between 2004 and 2006, and faced further Pakistani Taliban resistance. Peace accords entered into in 2004 and 2006 set terms whereby the tribesmen in the area would stop attacking Afghanistan, and the Pakistanis would halt major military actions against the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, release all prisoners, and permit tribesmen to carry small guns.[15] On 4 June 2007, the National Security Council of Pakistan met to decide the fate of Waziristan and take up a number of political and administrative decisions to control "Talibanization" of the area. The meeting was chaired by President Pervez Musharraf and it was attended by the Chief Ministers and Governors of all four provinces. They discussed the deteriorating law and order situation and the threat posed to state security. To crush the armed militancy in the Tribal regions and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the government decided to intensify and reinforce law enforcement and military activity, take action against certain madrassahs, and jam illegal FM radio stations.[18]

Merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

On 24 January 2017, the federal government decided to merge FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for which required legislation would be managed in Parliament after approval from the federal cabinet. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would apprise the ministers of the issue of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in upcoming federal cabinet meetings. After approval for this merger, the Law Ministry would be asked to prepare the draft of the bill that would be presented in parliament for approval.

The JUI-F, a major ally and coalition partner of the ruling PML (N), opposed this move on various political grounds. The Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party led by Mehmood Achakzai also opposed the merger.

Under the plan, FATA would be put under the control of the provincial government through amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). An annual grant of Rs100 billion has been proposed for FATA's development under the proposed merger and the amount will be given from the Federal Divisible Pool.

Most political parties in Pakistan supported the demand of the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

The FATA Reforms Committee proposed in 2016 a set of "parallel and concurrent" political, administrative, judicial and security reforms, as well as a massive reconstruction and rehabilitation programme, to prepare FATA for merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The proposed merger was near finalized at a meeting presided over by President Mamnoon Hussain at the Presidency in January 2017. The Prime Minister gave approval after discussing the issue with all the stakeholders.[19] By March 2017, the federal cabinet approved the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other reforms.[20]

National Implementation Committee on FATA Reforms

On 18 December 2017, the National Implementation Committee (NIC) on FATA Reforms, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, endorsed the FATA-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa merger and agreed to let FATA elect 23 members to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in the July 2018 general elections. The NIC also decided to remove controversial sections of the Frontier Crimes Regulations and to allow colonial-era regulation to continue with a sunset clause to be replaced entirely once a proper judicial system is in place in the tribal region.[21]

Constitutional amendment

On 24 May 2018, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a bill to enact the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan which calls for the merger of FATA with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The vote was 229-1 in favor of the amendment. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party lawmakers walked out from the assembly ahead of the vote. The sole dissenter was Dawar Kundi of the PTI.

On 25 May 2018, Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan was passed with a majority in the Senate of Pakistan. A total of 69 votes was needed for the bill to be approved; the vote was 71-5 in favor of the amendment for FATA, K-P merger.[3]

On 27 May 2018, Thirty-first Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan was passed with a majority in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. A total of 83 votes was needed for the bill to be approved; the vote was an 87-7 in favor of the amendment for FATA, K-P merger.[3]

Qabailistan proposal

Parliamentarians from tribal areas have taken strong exception to a resolution adopted by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly asking for merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with their province. The Awami National Party have also made similar demands that the FATA be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These proposals have been opposed by tribal parliamentarians in Islamabad.[22] Should the Federally Administered Tribal Areas become a province of Pakistan, the name Qabailistan has been proposed.[23] Qabailistan proposal never got any traction and was dropped in favor of merging FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.[23][22][5]


The Federally Administered Tribal Areas were bordered by: Afghanistan to the north and west with the border marked by the Durand Line, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the east, and Balochistan to the south.

The seven Tribal Areas lay in a north-to-south strip that is adjacent to the west side of the six Frontier Regions, which also lie in a north-to-south strip. The areas within each of those two regions are geographically arranged in a sequence from north to south.

The geographical arrangement of the seven Tribal Areas in order from north to south was: Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan, South Waziristan. The geographical arrangement of the six Frontier Regions in order from north to south was: FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu, FR Lakki Marwat, FR Tank, FR Dera Ismail Khan.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [24]


First languages of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas[25]

The total population of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was estimated in 2000 to be about 3,341,080 people, or roughly 2% of Pakistan's population. Only 3.1% of the population resides in established townships.[26] It is thus the most rural administrative unit in Pakistan. According to 2011 estimates FATA gained 62.1% population over its 1998 figures, totaling up to 4,452,913. This is the fourth-highest increase in population of any province, after that of Balochistan, Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan.[27] 99.1% of population speaks the Pashto language.[28]

The main tribes of the Pashtuns living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are Wazir, Afridi, Mohmand, Tarkani, Mahsud, Dawar, Bettani, Sherani, Turi, Orakzai, Bangash, Shinwari, and Safi and utmanzi..


Over 99.6% of the population is Muslim belonging to the Sunni Hanafi Fiqh.

Religions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas[29]
Religion Percent
Distribution of religions
Includes Sikhs, Parsis, Hindus .

Government and politics

Democracy and parliamentary representation

In 1996, the Government of Pakistan finally granted the Federally Administered Tribal Areas the long requested "adult franchise", under which every adult would have the right to vote for their own representatives in the Parliament of Pakistan.[14][30] The Federally Administered Tribal Areas were not allowed to organize political parties.[30] Islamist candidates were able to campaign through mosques and madrassahs, as a result of which mullahs were elected to represent the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the National Assembly in 1997 and 2002.[14] This was a departure from prior tribal politics, where power was focused in the hands of secular authorities, Maliks.[14]

Women and elections

All of the FATA's adults were legally allowed to vote in the Majlis-e-Shoora of Pakistan under the "adult franchise" granted in 1996.[14] Stephen Tierney, in Accommodating National Identity, reported that women came out to do so in the thousands for the 1997 office, possibly motivated by competition for voter numbers among the tribes.[30] However, Ian Talbot in Pakistan, a Modern History states that elders and religious leaders attempted to prevent female participation by threatening punishment against tribesmen whose women registered, leading to under-registration in the female population.[31] In 2008, the Taliban ordered women in the FATA regions of Bajaur, Kurram and Mohmand against voting under threat of "serious punishment," while Mangal Bagh, chief of the Lashkar-e-Islam, forbade women to vote in the Jamrud and Bara subdivisions of the Khyber Agency.[32]


The region is controlled by the Federal government of Pakistan. On behalf of the President, the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP) exercises the federal authority in the context of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Constitution of Pakistan governs the FATA through the same rules which were framed by the British in 1901 as Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). The Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Court of Pakistan does not extend to FATA and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), according to Article 247 and Article 248, of existing 1973 Constitution of Pakistan. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly has no power in FATA, and can exercise its powers in PATA only for that which is part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The Pashtun tribes who inhabit the areas are semi-autonomous. Until the fall of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan and the break out of warfare, the tribes had cordial relations with the Pakistan government.[33]

People of FATA are represented in the Parliament of Pakistan by their elected representatives both in National Assembly of Pakistan and the Senate of Pakistan. FATA has 12 members in the National Assembly and 8 members in the Senate. FATA has no representation in the Provincial Assembly of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The administrative head of each tribal agency is the Political Agent who represents the President of Pakistan and the appointed Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Each Tribal Agency, depending on its size, has about two to three Assistant Political Agents, about three to ten Tehsildars, and a number of Naib Tehsildars with the requisite supporting staff.

The FRs differ from the agencies only in the chain of command so that each FR is headed by the DC/DCO of the adjacent settled district (DC/DCO Peshawar heads FR Peshawar and so on). Under his supervision there is one Assistant Political Agent and a number of Tehsildars and Naib Tehsildars and support staff.

Each Tribal Agency has roughly 2–3,000 Khasadars and levies force of irregulars and up to three to nine wings of the para-military Frontier Corps for maintenance of law and order in the Agency and borders security. The Frontier Corps Force is headed by Pakistan's regular army officers, and its soldiers are recruited mostly from the Pashtun tribes.

The militancy situation has, however, improved after successive military operations carried out by Pakistan Army in Bajaur, Swat, Waziristan, Orakzai and Mohmand.

Relations with the Pakistani Military

In 2001 the Pakistani military entered the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for the first time which was previously governed by Frontier Corps. In 2010 The New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow conducted the first comprehensive public opinion survey in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The results showed that, on the issue of fighting militancy in the region, the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas overwhelmingly support the Pakistani military. Nearly 70 percent back the Pakistani military pursuing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the Tribal Areas. According to a survey, when asked how the Federally Administered Tribal Areas should be governed, 79 percent said it should be governed by the Pakistani military.[34]

In 2014, about 929,859 people were reported to be internally displaced from North Waziristan as a result of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a military offensive conducted by the Pakistan Armed Forces along the Durand Line.[35][36]

Administrative divisions

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) consist of two types of areas i.e. Tribal Agencies (Tribal Districts) and Frontier Regions (FRs). There are seven Tribal Agencies and six Frontier Regions.

Tribal Agencies

These are (from North to South):

Agencies are further divided into Subdivisions, and Tehsils. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas consist of the following subdivisions and tehsils:[37]

Agency / FR Subdivision Tehsil
Bajaur Agency Khaar Khara Bajaur
Utman Khel
Nawagai Nawagai
Bar Chamer Kand
Mohmand Agency Lower Mohmand Yake Ghund
Ambar Utman Khel
Pran Ghar
Upper Mohmand Safi
Upper Mohmand
Halim Zai
Khyber Agency Jamrud Jamrud
Mula Gori
Landi Kotal Landi Kotal
Bara Bara
Orakzai Agency Lower Orakzai Lower
Upper Orakzai Ismail Zai
Kurram Agency Lower Kurram Lower Kurram
Central Kurram Central Kurram F.R.
Upper Kurram Upper Kurram
North Waziristan Agency Mirali Mir Ali
Miramshah Miran Shah
Datta Khel
Ghulam Khan
Razmak Razmak
South Waziristan Agency Ladha Ladha
Sarwakai Serwekai
Wanna Wana
Toi Khullah

Frontier Regions

The Frontier Regions are named after their adjacent settled Districts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The administration of the FR is carried out by the DCO / DC of the neighbouring named district. The overall administration of the frontier regions is carried out by the FATA Secretariat, based in Peshawar and reporting to the Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The six regions are:

Urban Areas


The Federally Administered Tribal Areas are the most impoverished part of the nation. Despite being home to 2.4% of Pakistan's population, it makes up only 1.5% of Pakistan's economy with a per capita income of only $663 in 2010[39] only 34% of households managed to rise above the poverty level.[40]

Due to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas' tribal organization, the economy is chiefly pastoral, with some agriculture practiced in the region's few fertile valleys. Its total irrigated land is roughly 1,000 square kilometres.[41] The region is a major center for opium trafficking, as well the smuggling of other contraband.[41]

Foreign aid to the region is a difficult proposition, according to Craig Cohen, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Since security is difficult, local nongovernmental organizations are required to distribute aid, but there is a lack of trust amongst NGOs and other powers that hampers distribution. Pakistani NGOs are often targets of violent attacks by Islamist militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Due to the extensive hostility to any hint of foreign influence, the American branch of Save the Children was distributing funding anonymously in the region as of July 2007.[41]


The Federally Administered Tribal Areas contain proved commercially viable reserves of marble, copper, limestone and coal. However, in the current socio-political conditions, there is no chance of their exploitation in a profitable manner.


Industrialization of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is another route or remedy proposed for rapidly breaking up tribal barriers and promoting integration. The process of industrialization through a policy of public/private partnership would not only provide employment opportunities and economic benefits but also assist in bringing the youth of the tribal area on par with those of developed cities in the rest of the country.

Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs)

The concept of setting up ROZs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Afghanistan is an element in the United States Government's counter-terrorism and regional economic integration strategies.[42]

Irrigation projects

Water is scarce in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. When the British forces occupied Malakand they started work on the Amandara headworks to divert the Swat River through a tunnel to irrigate the plains of Mardan and Charsadda. The aim was not to get more wheat or sugarcane, but to ‘tame the wild tribes'.

Social issues


There is one hospital bed for every 2,179 people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, compared to one in 1,341 in Pakistan as a whole. There is one doctor for every 7,670[43] people compared to one doctor per 1,226 people in Pakistan as a whole. 43% of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas' citizens have access to clean drinking water.[37] Much of the population is suspicious about modern medicine, and some militant groups are openly hostile to vaccinations.

In June 2007, a Pakistani doctor was blown up in his car "after trying to counter the anti-vaccine propaganda of an imam in Bajaur", Pakistani officials told The New York Times.[41]


FATA has a total of 6,050 government education institutions out of which 4,868 are functional. Out of these 4,868 functional institutions, 77 percent (3,729) are primary schools. Total enrolment in government institutions is 612,556 out of which 69 percent are studying at primary stage. Total number of working teachers in FATA is 22,610 out of which 7,540 are female. The survival rate from Grade KG to Grade 5 is 36 percent while the transition rate from primary to middle in public schools in FATA is 64 percent (73 percent for boys and 45 percent for girls).[44]

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas has one university, FATA University in Akhurwal, Darra Adam Khel, FR Kohat, which was approved by Mir Hazar Khan Khoso in May 2013.[46] Classes commenced on 24 October 2016, under the direction of Dr. Mohammad Tahir Shah, former professor of geology at University of Peshawar.[47] The university plans to open sub-campuses at Khar, Miran Shah, and Parachinar.[48]

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas' literacy rate is 22%, which is well below the nationwide rate of 56%. 35.8% of men, and only 7.5% of women receive education, compared to a nationwide 44% of women.[45][49]

AgencyLiteracy rate 2007[45]
South Waziristan32.3%4.3%20%
Bajaur Agency27.9%3.1%16.5%
North Waziristan (1998)[50]26.77%1.47%15.88%


FATA has produced some world-class sportspersons like cricketer Shahid Afridi from Khyber Agency and squash player Maria Toorpakay Wazir from South Waziristan who won the National Women's Squash championship in 2010. FATA is home to the domestic cricket team FATA Cheetahs. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas cricket team gained first class status in 2015.[51]

See also


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