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Pakistan to give tribal areas local power

Pakistan to give tribal areas local power
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari speaks to the media after meeting with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-IN, Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and other Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2009. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says extremists will be weakened by allowing his nation's battle-scarred tribal areas to have political parties.

Zardari's government plans a series of reforms to integrate the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Fata, into mainstream Pakistan, the BBC reported Saturday.

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The region's 4 million people have been ruled by the central government in a system inherited from British rule, which ended in 1947. Militants behind violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been using the region as a base of operation for nearly a decade now.

Allowing people in the tribal areas to join and vote for mainstream politics will empower local residents, Zardari spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

"This breaks the monopoly of clerics to play politics from the pulpit of the mosque to the exclusion of major secular political parties," Babar said, adding the new reforms are expected to be passed into law later this month.

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