Pakistan to give tribal areas local power

Aug. 15, 2009 at 12:10 PM
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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.

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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