This March, Pakistan announced plans to mainstream the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the militancy-prone region bordering Afghanistan governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), a century-old collective punishment law. FATA is outside Pakistani judicial and legislative jurisdiction, leaving its seven million inhabitants hamstrung between jihadist fighters, the Pakistani military, and US drones.
Almost no news coverage is devoted to the FCR, even though rights groups say it is a major reason for instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While a system of intra-tribal checks and balances kept the peace for nearly a century, when outside forces like Al-Qaeda stepped in – killing thousands of tribal elders – it fell apart spectacularly. When Pakistan struck back, it used the FCR to raze thousands of homes, and exile entire tribes for allegedly harboring the extremists. And Washington, pointing to the "lawless" nature of FATA, carried out hundreds of drone strikes, making things even more complicated for locals.
Tens of thousands were killed, and millions are still displaced, but Pakistan now has the upper hand on the jihadists, and a chance has emerged to start with a clean slate. For locals in FATA, they have watched as Pakistan has made and broken this promise many times in the past. Will the FCR, the last colonial collective punishment law in the world, finally be lifted?