Cell for FATA Studies(CFS)


The region was annexed in the 19th century during the British colonial period. The British Raj attempted to control the population of the annexed tribal regions with the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), which allowed considerable power to govern to local nobles so long as these nobles were willing to meet the needs of the British.


The territories that together form FATA consist of seven ‘Political Agencies’ – Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai, and South Waziristan – and six smaller zones, called ‘Frontier Regions’ (FRs), which are attached with the districts of Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Peshawar, and Tank.


To the North and East, the tribal areas are bounded by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), while to the South is the province of Baluchistan. The Durand Line, which separates Pakistan from Afghanistan, forms the Western border of FATA.

System of Administration

Pakistan’s tribal regions are managed through an indirect system of administration for the execution of government policies. The pivot of this administration is the political agent, who influences tribes indirectly through local notables called Maliks. In return for their services, the Maliks receive allowances and are provided with patronage. Such a system lays down a narrow base of support for the government and is one of the main reasons for not generating a larger base of supporters for the state of Pakistan.

Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR)

Control over the administered portion of the tribal areas is exercised by a stringent law enacted in 1901 called the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). This basic law is used for settling disputes and exercising control. Barring some exceptions, disputes and complaints are handed over to Jirgas (tribal juries) for decisions. An assistant political officer acts as the administrator of a Jirga.

It may be noted that this system works best when the political agent is accepted as the unchallenged head of the agency administration. This has not been the case since October 2002, when the military entered FATA. As a result the tribal administration became dysfunctional and the political agent lost control over the tribes. As stated earlier, the main cause of this outcome was the subordination of the political agent’s authority to the military commander and the military’s direct handling of tribal matters, a move away from the former practice of exerting control through diplomacy.