The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is geographically located between the Durand line (Pak-Afghan border) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This semi-autonomous tribal land of FATA comprises seven “agencies” — Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan.
In the 19th century, when Russian empire was approaching southwards into Central Asia, the British government was concerned about this advancement. The British government in India proactively responded to the Russian threats thereby making attempts to take control of Afghanistan. These endeavours resulted in three Anglo-Afghan wars, fought in 1839-42, 1878-79 and 1919 respectively.
Although, Great Britain failed to occupy Afghanistan, yet it consolidated its power across the Indus River and established its rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, previously known as NWFP, and Balochistan provinces. Beyond the KP province, the British faced stiff resistance from tribal people in FATA. Afghan government was backing tribal people against the British invaders.
The colonial power contended itself with control over Fata when it felt that it was difficult to dominate Afghan territories. So, Afghanistan became a ‘buffer state’ between British India and Russia while FATA assuemed the status of a buffer zone between Afghanistan and British India.
To establish its writ in the tribal belt, the British government, keeping in mind the unique tribal structure of the region, devised an arbitrary law called Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). Through this law it established an administrative setup with combination of effective Political Agents and tribal elders, leaving common dwellers of the arae to follow and practice their traditions and enjoy internal independence.
The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) was introduced in 1870s to enhance authority over the region. In the early 1900, judicial powers were bestowed upon the FCR administrative officials. These administrative officials then became Political Agents (PAs), who were paid by the British government. PAs work through the Maliks (elders and chiefs of tribes) to establish control and implement policies.
At the time of partition, the Maliks of FATA agreed to make their area a part of Pakistan provided their political, administrative and judicial system would be kept intact.
FATA became a flash point for the first time since 1919 Anglo-Afghan when the US announced a war against terrorism and invaded Afghanistan against the backdrop of 9/11 attacks on Twin Towers in New York.