ISLAMABAD -- President Asif Ali Zardari has announced the introduction of local self governments in tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan.
In a speech on the eve of the country's independence day celebrations, Zardari said that the coming year will see the implementation of the new self-government plan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
"The coming year will be the year of the beginning of self-governance in the tribal areas in accordance with their wishes and their customs and traditions," Zardari said.
"We owe this to the people and to the peace and stability of the country and the region to bring these areas into the mainstream of national life."
Zardari said his administration initiated unprecedented reforms in the region last year by amending the century-old, colonial-era laws and allowing mainstream political parties to campaign in the tribal areas.
Amendments in the region's Frontier Crimes Regulation laws promised some accountability and bringing them on par with modern human rights standards.
FATA has been embroiled in conflict during the past decade. Parts of the region are still controlled by Islamist extremists allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. T
Tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers continue to be deployed in the region, where many large-scale operations have failed to cleanse Pakistani and international jihadists.
Nearly 1 million FATA residents remain displaced by the conflict. The government has done little to address the grievances of thousands of victims of violence in the region.
The region's tribes are under immense strain from militants and the security forces. Hundreds of traditional tribal leaders have been either assassinated or chased from their home areas. None of their killers were punished.
FATA's status as Pakistan's backwater persists, with health, education, and other human-development indicators among the lowest in Asia.