Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA)



The Federally Administered Tribal Area, typically known as FATA, is a semi-autonomous tribal region in northwestern Pakistan, consisting of seven tribal agencies or districts and 6 frontier regions. The administrative center is Peshawar, and the largest city is Parachinar. FATA is directly governed from Islamabad but is subject to a special set of laws called the Frontier Crimes Regulations. The area borders Afghanistan to the west and the Pakistani provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the east and Baluchistan to the south. The geographical arrangement of the seven Tribal Areas in order from north to south is: Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan. The geographical arrangement of the six Frontier Regions in order from north to south is: Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Dera Ismail Khan.


The region served as a buffer for the British Raj from unrest in Afghanistan. The British exhibited loose control over the region through the passage of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), which gave extensive control to the tribal notables in exchange for their cooperation with British goals. This trend continued after the formation of Pakistan, with FATA gaining a reputation for lawlessness and lack of central control.

This lack of control from Islamabad made the region a haven for groups trying to disappear from the authorities; as such, it became a stronghold and hideout for the Tehrik-e-Taliban (Pakistani Taliban) after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. FATA, along with neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, became a battleground of fighting between the Pakistani military and the Pakistani Taliban from 2004-2008, resulting in widespread social and physical destruction of the region. On March 2, 2017 the federal government approved the recommendations of the FATA reforms committee, which included the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and repeal of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR).The process is expected to take five years to complete, concluding by 2022.


FATA is overwhelmingly Pashtun; Pashto is spoken by 99.1% of the population. The porousness and artificiality of the Durand Line separating the region from Afghanistan has allowed tribal and clan ties to continue to exist between the population of FATA and their neighbors in the tribal areas of Afghanistan. Pashtunwali and other ancient cultural signifiers, along with Islam, play an overwhelmingly dominant role in the culture of the region.

The total population of FATA was estimated at approximately 3.3 million people in 2000; only 3% of the residents reside in urban areas, leaving 97% of the population living in rural or tribal enclaves. The literacy rate is 22%, 36% for men and only 8% for women, significantly lower than the the rest of the country.


FATA is administered by the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who loosely serves as an agent for the President of Pakistan, under the supervision of the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions in Islamabad. The Pakistani Parliament doesn’t have jurisdiction in FATA, unless an individual law is designated for enforcement by the President of Pakistan. That being said, residents of FATA have representation in both chambers of the Pakistani Parliament, 12 members in the National Assembly and 8 in the Senate. Each individual Agency in the region is administered by a Political Agent. All civil and criminal cases are decided by a council of elders, a Jirga. 


FATA is the most impoverished area of Pakistan, with a per capita income of less $700/year. The economy is primarily pastoral, with agriculture limited to a few fertile valleys. The region is a major source of opium production. There are commercially viable amounts of marble, copper, coal, and limestone; however the current socio-political situation makes mining the minerals near impossible.



Punjab, the land of “five waters”, is one of the largest provinces geographically and the single largest in terms of demographics, of Pakistan. Its capital, Lahore is a major economic and cultural center, and is one of the oldest cities in Pakistan.


Punjab has a total population of approximately 72 million and a  literacy rate of 59.6%.  The official language of the province is Punjabi, but the province also has portions of Saraiki, Urdu and Pashto speakers. Punjab is predominantly Muslim, with a small population of Christians.


Punjab has a primarily agriculture-based economy, with rice and cotton being the most important to the state and national economy. Punjab is also the most-industrialized economy in Pakistan (key industries include textiles, machinery, electrical appliances, surgical instruments, metals, bicycles and rickshaws, floor coverings, and processed foods) and reportedly does better in terms of economic indicators than the rest of Pakistan.


Historically, political actors from Punjab have dominated Pakistan. Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif for instance, began his career as a member of the Punjab Provincial Council and then the Chief Minister. The province is home to 148 of 272 seats in the National Assembly.

The ruling party in Punjab since 1993 has been various incarnations and factions of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz, Quaid e Azam, Junejo). The current Chief Minister (CM), Shehbaz Sharif, is the longest-serving CM of the state and is the brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Source;  The News Tribe

The main opposition parties of Punjab are the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) and Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM).


Further Reading

Shahrukh Rafi Khan, Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, The Military and Denied Development in the Pakistani Punjab: An Eroding Social Consensus (Anthem Press, November 2014)

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Penguin, February 2016)

Gilgit Baltistan


Perched high up in the lofty Karakoram mountain range is the Gilgit-Baltistan region, administered by Pakistan. At the time of partition of 1947, the region was a part of the empire of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Following a coup by the army unit stationed at Gilgit, Gilgit’s governor (political agent of the Maharaja) was ousted and later the Pakistani establishment took over the charge of the region.

In 1970 the Gilgit Agency and Baltistan, were merged into a single administrative unit, named "Northern Areas". A Northern Areas Advisory Council was established in 1969. Later, in 1974 it was renamed to Northern Areas Council (NAC) and Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) in 1994. The leader of NALC became the deputy chief executive and the minister of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas served as the chief executive.

Gilgit Baltistan covers an area of 72,971 sq km but is sparsely populated due to the mountainous nature of the terrain. The region has a population of approximately 2 million people only. Shina and Burushaski are the majorly spoken languages in Gilgit whereas the Balti language is spoken by the people of Baltistan. The northern parts of Gilgit also consists a tiny population which speaks the Wakhi language. Shi’ism (Athna Ashari) and Ismailism are the majorly followed faiths in GB.

Administrative changes

In 2009, Pakistani establishment devolved some of the legislative power to the political aspirations of the region by passing the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order in the Cabinet and getting presidential assent for it. As a result, a GB Legislative assembly and GB council was created. The legislative assembly is a 33 member assembly headed by a Chief Minister, elected popularly. 24 members are directly elected members, 6 seats are reserved for women candidates and the remaining 3 are reserved for technocrats.

The 2009 order also established a 15 member (all nominated) GB council, headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Also, the post of governor in Gilgit-Baltistan was created in September 2009 who is also the vice-chairman of the GB council.

Chief Ministers

Following the enactment the 2009 order, Syed Mehdi Shah from PPP became the first Chief Minister of GB. PML-N won the next round of elections held in 2015 and Hafiz Hafeez-ur-Rehman became the next Chief Minister. Mir Ghaznafar Ali Khan is the current governor of GB.

GB as fifth Province?   

With the announcement of $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor in 2015, the region’s significance resumed as it is Pakistan’s only gateway to China. Due to the magnitude of the investments involved in CPEC, the Chinese establishment has expressed concerned regarding the status of GB, which is still not mentioned as a part of Pakistan in the nation’s constitution. There were reports that the Pakistani government was considering to make the region as its fifth province. Recently, a high level committee was established in Islamabad to take decision of the elevation of the region as a province.

The Kashmiri leadership (Hurriyat parties) voiced their concerns regarding this proposal. In New Delhi, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met the Pakistani High commissioner to enquire regarding this issue, who ensured him that there was no change in Pakistan’s policy on GB’s status. This is crucial for the separatist Kashmiri leadership because they also include GB as a party to the Kashmir dispute. It is feared that once GB is made a province, the separatist movement on the Indian side of Kashmir would be weakened as both India and Pakistan would enter into a permanent status-quo having carved out provinces in their respective territories.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) translates to ‘Khyber side of the land of the Pashtuns’, and is the north-western province of Pakistan. It shares borders with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Afghanistan to the west, Gilgit-Baltistan to the northeast, Azad Kashmir, Islamabad and Punjab to the east and Southeast. .


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a population of almost 27 million people, and only 53 per cent of it’s population is literate. The largest ethnic group in the province is the Pashtun, and the province is host to 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees. Pashto is the provincial language of the province and is spoken by over 73 per cent of the population, although the population speaks a total of 26 languages (when the Federally Administered Tribal areas are also taken into consideration). 99.68 per cent of the population is Muslim (Shia, Sunni and Ahmadi), while the remainder is comprised of  mostly Christians and Hindus.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwas share of Pakistan's GDP has comprised 10.5%, and the part of the economy that the province dominates is forestry. In the ten years leading up to 2011-12, KP’s economy grew at a rate of 4.2 per cent, slightly lower than the national growth rate of 4.6 per cent. The labor force partitipation in KP at 37 per cent is the lowest of all provinces (the national average is 46 per cent) and the unemployment rate is also the highest, at 9 per cent (the national average is 6 per cent). The province accounts for 78 per cent of the marble production in Pakistan.

While 83 per cent of the population of KP is defined as “rural”, over two thirds of the population lives within a one-hour travel time to a city.


Till the late 19th century, there was no formal border between Afghanistan and British India, and so in 1893 a border was drawn which was agreed upon by the British and Afghanistan. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has had a troubled history since it was formed, when the British in 1901 carved out the northwest portions of Punjab to create the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). Upon the inception of Pakistan in 1947, Afghanistan held a Loya Jirga to claim the Pashtun territories on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line.  Afghanistan supported the Pushtunistan movement, which demanded a separate state for the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the coming decades, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has remained frosty, and the areas around the Durand Line have been the site of conflict. (Cohen, 2004)

The citizens of the province have experienced significant shocks, including fall-out from decades of a conflict in Afghanistan (which has included millions of refugees, many unregistered), spill-over from militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, widespread devastation from the earthquake in 2005, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the conflicts in Swat and FATA. The province is also the major site for the Pakistani military operation against militants in the country, called Zarb-e-Azb. Polio is still prevalent in the province of KP, mainly due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children and militants targeting polio vaccination workers.

The major political parties in KP include the Awami National Party (ANP), a leftist, secular, Pashtun nationalist political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a third-way communitarian party, and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), an Islamic political party and social conservative movement. The current chief minister of the province is Pervez Khattak (PTI), and his party has formed a coalition government with the Jamaat-e-Islami and Qoumi Wattan Party (QWP).


Further Reading

Stephen Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 2004
KPK Historical Overview

KP’s growth strategy
Reclaiming Prosperity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - A Medium Term Strategy for Inclusive Growth, IGC




Sindh is the south-easternmost province of Pakistan. It is the third largest province by size, and is bordered by Balochistan to the west, Punjab to the north, Gujarat and Rajasthan to the east, and the Arabian Sea to the south. The provincial capital of the province is Karachi, which is the largest and most populated city in Pakistan and the financial hub of the country, and also the site of significant sectarian, ethnic and political violence.


According to the last census (1998), the population of Sindh was 30.4 million, but recent estimates place that figure at 44.2 million. 52 per cent of this population lives in rural areas.The literacy rate for Sindh for the period 2014-2015 is 61 per cent (71 per cent of males are literate and 50 per cent of females). With regards to religion, 94.81 per cent of the population of the province are Muslim, 5.01 per cent are Hindu, and 0.18 per cent adhere to other religions.


The economy of Sindh is the second largest of the country, after Punjab. The province's contribution to the national GDP is around 33 per cent, and Sindh collects 70 per cent of Pakistan’s income tax and 62 per cent of sales tax. Sindh has 54 per cent of the country’s textile units, 45 per cent of its sugar mills, 20 per cent of pulp and paper mills, and 35 per cent of edible oil processed locally. Sindh has the largest sea port in Pakistan, Port Qasim, which accounts for much of the transport of goods across the Arabian sea. The nominal GDP of the province is 47,799 USD (second only to Punjab), while the GSP per capita is 1,500 USD (the highest in the country). In 2012-13, the official unemployment rate in the province was 5 per cent, lower than the country’s overall rate.


The province of Sindh was the first province to demand a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. During partition, there was a mass-migration of people from Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bihar to Karachi. The identity of these largely Urdu-speaking “Mohajirs” was strengthened when the national language of Pakistan was adopted as Urdu, and Karachi was made the capital. However, this migration created tensions between Mohajirs and Sindhis, and the population of the latter declined from 87 per cent of the province before partition to about 67 per cent after, and Sindhis also became a minority within Karachi. (Cohen, 2011)

The politics of Sindh is largely dominated by the leftist Pakistan People's Party, whose current chairman is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, grandson to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and son of Benazir Bhutto. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) does not have a strong foothold in the province. In major metropolitan cities including Karachi and Hyderabad, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), another left-leaning party that promotes the rights of the Urdu-speaking migrant community, has a considerable vote-bank among Mohajirs, and is headed by Altaf Hussain.

The province of Sindh, mainly Karachi, is plagued by violent extremism, rampant crime, and tribal feuds. This includes extremist outfits such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, which is very active in the province. There has been an ongoing operation in the province beginning in September 2013 to rid the metropolis of violence and terrorism, which has reportedly resulted in significant gains.

The current Chief Minister of Sindh is Syed Qaim Ali Shah, from the PPP. The leader of opposition is Mr. Khawaja Izharul Hassan, of the MQM.


Further Reading

Pakistan’s Sindh Province
The Evolution of Mohajir Politics and Identity
‘In 2015 Karachi the most violent region in Pakistan’
Karachi’s three decades of violence
Sindh Assessment 2015 - South Asia Terrorism Portal


Balochistan is one of the four provinces of Pakistan, located in the southwestern region of the country. It shares its border with Punjab and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the northeast, Sindh to the southeast, the Arabian Sea to the south, Iran to the west, and Afghanistan to the north. While it occupies roughly 43 per cent of Pakistan's land-mass, it only has 5 per cent of the population, and contributes to 36 per cent of the country’s total gas production.


Most of the inhabitants of the province are Balochs, Pashtuns and Brahuis, though there are smaller communities of Iranian Balochs, Hazaras, Sindhis and other settlers. The population density of the province is low, as a result of its rugged, mountainous terrain and water scarcity. A 2005 census concerning Afghans in Pakistan showed a total of 769,268 Afghan refugees staying in Balochistan. However, considered how many refugees were repatriated in 2013, that number today is bound to be much lower.

The province of Baluchistan has significantly lower Human Development Indicators as compared to some of the other provinces in Pakistan, and only 28 per cent of the population 10 years and over is literate. Only 47 per cent of the population has access to an improved drinking water source


The economy of Balochistan is largely based upon the production of natural gas, coal and minerals. Agriculture and livestock also dominate the Baloch economy. Economic growth in Balochistan stagnated between 1995 and 2005 due to limited investment and capital accumulation, and the province saw no significant investment in productive streams. There are multiple large-scale development projects in Balochistan, including a Including a gold mine with a $500bn value, a copper and gold project in Saindak, and a soon to be completed multi-million dollar deep-sea port is under development in Balochistan, which is projected to be the hub of energy and trade to and from China and the Central Asian republics.

The GDP (nominal) of Balochistan (in USD) is 4,996, which is much lower than the other provinces.


The province of Balochistan has had a tumultuous history, beginning from when the four princely states that form present-day Balochistan: Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat -  became a part of Pakistan in August 1947. The Khan of Kalat agreed to join Pakistan under the condition that defence, currency, foreign relations, and finance would be controlled by the federal government, but that the province would otherwise remain autonomous. Following significant disagreements with the central government, there were multiple insurgencies by Baloch nationalists in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77, and a current low-intensity insurgency that has been going on since 2003.

The Baloch separatists demand greater autonomy, increased royalties from natural resources, and an independent nation-state. The tensions were only exacerbated when then President Pervez Musharraf assassinated veteran Baloch nationalist leader and former Chief Minister of the province Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006.

The current conflict between Baloch nationalists and the Government of Pakistan has been severely criticized by rights groups, and has resulted in missing persons and military and paramilitary abuses. The Hazara community, a mainly Shiite community, have been the victims of persecution in the province, and at least 1300 Hazara members have been killed and over 1500 have been injured in recent years in the province.

The current chief minister of Balochistan is Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The leader of opposition is Moulana Abdul Wasey, from the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI-F). Balochistan follows a parliamentary set-up, and (as with other provinces of Pakistan), received considerable provincial autonomy as part of the 18th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan to legislate on issues.


Further Reading:

How Balochistan became a part of Pakistan - a historical perspective
Balochistan in History
Dark Coordior: Conflict in Balochistan must be resolved for a trade-corridor between Pakistan and China to bring rewards