Developing Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan: Understanding the Complex Dynamics of the Region

Alia Qaim

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The events following the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers in the USA dramatically brought Afghanistan and its neighbouring region FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) to world attention. In an attempt to curtail militancy, FATA received unprecedented local and international assistance with a focus on development. In this thesis I explore the stories and narratives of the people of FATA, central government officials, Army personnel and local government workers in an attempt to understand how FATA’s underdevelopment is perceived and imagined by these differently situated actors. I use participant observations, conversations and document analysis to elaborate and examine different perspectives that give subjective meaning to the FATA region. FATA is broadly imagined through three kinds of lenses. The first narrative is one of underdevelopment and ‘primitiveness’ which surfaces in the reports of the government and of international aid agencies. The second consists of doubt, anger and mistrust by the FATA Pukhtuns towards the Pakistani state. The third narrative concerns rampant corruption in FATA among the local government officials, which is voiced by international aid agencies and the FATA Pukhtuns. In this thesis I focus on all three of these narratives.

Through these narratives I build an argument about developmental interventions and their continuous ‘failure’ in regions like FATA. I argue that although FATA has long been a remote region with serious infrastructure limitations and prevalent socio-economic deprivations, the region’s development problems cannot be understood through these factors alone. Grasping such problems requires closer enquiry into how social and political relations at the local level are formed on a daily basis, and how the political economy of such structures play a role in negotiating the ‘outside world’, whether this comprises political institutions of the state, social institutions like education, or others. In this thesis I analyse how competing discourses on FATA mould and reshape development interventions, along with the institutions which carry them out.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 May 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017

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