Colonial Governance System in Pakistan: A Case Study of South Waziristan, Newly Merged District


  • Muhammad Irfan Mahsud National Defence University, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Noreen Naseer University of Peshawar, Department of Political Science
  • Marium Fatima National Defence University, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies



colonial governance, frontier crimes regulation, political administration, militants, South Waziristan


This paper discusses the former colonial governance system based on special set of laws known as Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in the erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas, present-day Newly Merged Tribal Districts). The main purpose of the research is to provide an argument that the colonial governance structure was not the only cause for the widespread militancy in South Waziristan, part of the Newly Merged District. From in-depth interviews with different stakeholders and literature review, it is found out that the FCR with all its inherent faults was deemed successful in the administration of the North West Frontier and it was not responsible for the militancy in the tribal district of South Waziristan. Thus, the paper analyzes the old governance system prior to the spillover of militants and it reaches to the conclusion that the FCR proved to be an effective tool for the political administration of the border area of South Waziristan in both the colonial and post-colonial periods. The study emphases that mismanagement, corruption and incompetency of bureaucracy has led to the weakening of FCR, traditional institutions of dispute resolution and the indigenous leadership model thereby creating leadership vacuum which was in turn filled by the militants. The study has employed ethnographic based data collection techniques to reach the findings that old administrative structure is not responsible for the chaos and militancy in South Waziristan.


Abbasi, W. (2018) FATA: abolished and merged, Daily Times (Pakistan), available at:, (March 7, 2021).

Ahmed, A. (1984) Emergent Trends in Moslem Tribal Society: the Wazir Movement of the Mullah of Wana in North-Western Frontier Province of Pakistan, In: Arjomand, S. A. (ed.) From Nationalism to Revolutionary Islam, St Antony’s/Macmillan Series (London: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 71-93,

Ahmed, A. S. (2004) Resistance and Control in Pakistan, 2nd ed. (London, New York: Routledge).

Akins, H. (2017) FATA and the Frontier Crimes Regulation in Pakistan: The Enduring Legacy of British Colonialism, Policy Brief, 5:17 (The Howard H. Baker Jr Center for Public Policy), available at: (January 24, 2021).

Ali, Y. (2008) FCR or Not (Special Report), The News International, April 13, 2008 (Islamabad: The News Special Report), available at: not available (January 21, 2021).

Beattie, H. (2015) Empire and Tribe in the Afghan Frontier Region: Custom, Conflict and British Strategy in Waziristan until 1947 (London, New York, Oxford, New Delhi, Sydney: IB Tauris).

Caroe, O. (1983) The Pathans With An Epilogue On Russia (Karachi: Oxford University Press).

Dil, U. (2016) Black Law (FCR) in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, Atlas Corps, available at: http://www. atlascorps. org/blog/black-law-in -federallyadministered-tribal-areas-fata-of-pakistan/ (January 20, 2021).

Dupree, L. (1997) Afghanistan (Pakistan: Oxford Press).

Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2020) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Alternate Dispute Resolution Act 2020 (Peshawar: Law Department).

Farrell, T. D. (1972) The founding of the North‐West Frontier Militias, Asian Affairs, 3(2), pp. 165-178.

Ghauri, I. (2016) FATA reforms: doubts cast before implementation, The Express Tribune, available at: (January 20, 2021).

Haq, I. (1996) Pak-Afghan Drug Trade in Historical Perspective, Asian Survey, 36(10), pp. 945–963,

Hopkins, B. D. (2009) Jihad on the Frontier: A History of Religious Revolt on the North‐West Frontier, 1800–1947, History Compass, 7(6), pp. 1459-1469.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (2005) FCR: A bad law nobody can defend (Peshawar Chapter), available at: (January 25, 2021).

Hussain, R. (2005) Pakistan and the emergence of Islamic militancy in Afghanistan (New York: Ashgate Publishing Ltd).

Hussain, Z. (2008) Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with militant Islam (New York: Columbia University Press).

Jeffreys, A. (2016) Training the Indian Army, 1939–1945, In: Rose, P. (ed.) The Indian Army, 1939–47 (London: Routledge), pp. 81-97.

Johnson, T. H. & Mason, M. C. (2007) Understanding the Taliban and insurgency in Afghanistan, Orbis, 51(1), pp. 71-89.

Keister, J. (2014) The Illusion of Chaos: Why ungoverned spaces aren't ungoverned, and why that matters, Policy Analysis, (766), available at: (January 28, 2021).

Khan, M. W. K. (2016) A key to enduring peace: reforms in federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan [Doctoral dissertation] (Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School).

Kronstadt, K. A. & Katzman, K. (2008) Islamist militancy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region and US policy (Library of Congress Washington DC congressional research service), available at: (January 22, 2021).

Lake, D. A. (2009) Hobbesian hierarchy: the political economy of political organization, Annual Review of Political Science, 12, pp. 263-283,

Mahsud, I. (2019) Religious Militancy and Tribal Transformation in Pakistan: A Case Study of Mahsud Tribe in South Waziristan Agency [Unpublished PhD dissertation] (Pakistan: University of Peshawar).

Mahsud, M. K. (2010) The Battle for Pakistan: Militancy and Conflict in South Waziristan (Policy Paper) (Washington DC: The New American).

Mathur, N. (2013) Naturalizing the Himalaya-as-Border in Uttarakhand, In: Gellner, D. N. (ed.) Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia (London: Duke University Press), pp. 72-93.

Morgan, D. L. (2008) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods (USA: SAGE Publications).

Naseer, N. (2015) Law, Rights, and the Colonial Administrative System: A Critical Note on the Frontier Crimes Regulation (1901) in the FATA, Pakistan, Review of Human Rights Journal, 1(1), pp. 24-41,

Nichols, R. (ed.) (2013) The Frontier Crimes Regulation: A History in Documents (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Parveen, N., Dasti, H. A. & Khan, A. R. (2016) FATA needs radical reforms in FATA administration in order to include in mainstream of Pakistan’s state, South Asian Studies, 31(1), p. 85.

Rumi, R. A. (2012) Pakistan: ungoverned spaces, CIDOB Policy Research Project (Barcelona centre for international affairs), pp. 179-200, available at: (January 20, 2021).

Sammon, R. L. (2008) Mullas And Maliks: Understanding The roots of conflict In Pakistan’s federally administrated tribal areas [Unpublished thesis] (The Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania, USA), available at: (January 18, 2021).

Schendel, V. W. & Baud, B. (1997) Toward a Comparative History of Borderlands, Journal of World History, 8(2), pp. 211-242.

Schofield, V. (2003) Afghan Frontier Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia (London: I.B. Tauris).

Spain, J. W. (1963) The people of the Khyber: the Pathans of Pakistan (New York: Praeger).

Spain, J. W. (1972) The way of the Pathans (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Spain, J. W. (2014) The Pathan Borderland, 1985th ed. (Karachi: Indus Publication).

Stanislawski, B. H. (2008) Para-States, quasi-states, and black spots: Perhaps not states, but not “ungoverned territories,” either, International Studies Review, 10(2), pp. 366-396.

Tripodi, C. (2016) Edge of Empire: The British Political Officer and Tribal Administration on the North-West Frontier 1877–1947 (London: Routledge).

Warren, A. (1997) 'Bullocks treading down wasps'? The British Indian army in Waziristan in the 1930s, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 20(1), pp. 5-56,

Wazir, M. M. K. (2007) Fata under fcr (frontier crimes regulations): An imperial black law, available at: (January 15, 2021).

Williams, M. W. (2005) The British colonial experience in Waziristan and its applicability to current operations (Kansas: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College), available at: (December 18, 2020).

Yousaf, F. (2019) Pakistan’s colonial legacy: FCR and postcolonial governance in the Pashtun tribal frontier, Interventions, 21(2), pp. 172-187,

Yousaf, F. (2021) Pakistan, Regional Security and Conflict Resolution The Pashtun ‘Tribal’ Areas (London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group).


Interviews Conducted:

Brigadier Retired Qayyum Sher Mahsud, personal communication, November 12, 2021. District Peshawar.

Displaced Tribal, personal communication, November 12, 2021. South Waziristan and adjacent areas.

K. Kaka, personal communication, November 28, 2020. South Waziristan District.

M. Iqbal, personal communication, December 24, 2020. District Dear Ismail Khan.

M. Mehmood, personal communication, December 11, 2020. District Dera Ismail Khan.

N. Javed, personal communication, November 24, 2020. District Tank.