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Pakistan cabinet approves historic reforms to tribal regions

[JURIST] The Pakistani Cabinet [official website] on Thursday approved a five-year plan yesterday [press release] to bring political reforms to the tribal areas of the country. The cabinet accepted the recommendations of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) Reforms Committee to extend to the seven semi-autonomous tribal "agencies" the constitutional rights to vote representatives and access to fundamental rights. Currently the region is governed by British-era Frontier Crimes Regulation and the cabinet's plan would extend to the area the ability for recourse to formal courts. The FATA Reforms Committee has summarized the trouble in the FATA as "the main cause for the underdevelopment of FATA and its people is thus the result of structural deficits related to non-availability of Constitutional processes that discriminates against FATA and provides it with lesser per capita allocation from the budget than its fair and equitable share."

The FATA has been faced [BBC profile] with disorder and instability since 1979 when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Since the invasion [Al Jazeera report] the region has endured militancy and has long been a sanctuary for various armed forces such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al Qaeda. Access to health facilities [FATA Reforms Committee report, PDF] in FATA is low, which results in high infant and maternal mortality rates and low immunization rates. Due to the instability in the area, it is estimated that more than three million citizens from the tribal regions are internally displaced and Prime Minister hopes that due to the five-year plan those who have been displaced will be able to return home by April 30th.

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