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.