Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari has announced that the local government system will be introduced in Pakistan's tribal areas in the coming year to bring the people of the region into the mainstream.
Zardari made the announcement while addressing a special ceremony held at the presidency to celebrate the country's Independence Day.
The move is apparently part of the federal government's efforts to extend its control to the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, which has been described by US officials as a stronghold for Taliban and al-Qaeda elements.
The President said the coming year will "see the beginning of local self-governance in tribal areas in accordance with the wishes, customs and traditions of its people".
"We owe it 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," he said.
The ceremony at which Zardari made the announcement was attended by the top civil and military leadership, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, federal ministers, service chiefs, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and diplomats.
The event was held hours before the President left for Saudi Arabia for an OIC summit. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the local government system will be introduced in the tribal areas in a gradual manner and the provision has been incorporated in the draft Regulation.
The measure will come into force once a notification is issued by the Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Babar said on the eve of the Independence Day last year, the President had announced amendments in the century-old Frontier Crimes Regulation law, setting into motion far reaching administrative, judicial and political reforms in the tribal areas.
At the time, Zardari had also announced the extension of the Political Parties Order of 2002 to the tribal areas, enabling all political parties to begin their activities in the tribal areas.
During his address at the event, Zardari also called for safeguarding the dignity and term. "This is a historic milestone. It augurs well for democracy and democratic traditions in the country," he said. While Pakistanis have reasons to celebrate, there are also dangers and threats, Zardari said.
Militants pose the greatest threat to the country and a great challenge facing the people is "defeating the militant mindset", he added.
"For this, we must defend democracy and promote tolerance, discussion and debate," Zardari said.