Under British rule, the area served as a buffer zone between the British and Russsian spheres of influence. The colonial government never completely controlled the region; the tribes governed their own internal affairs, while the British were responsible for British India's security. The arrangement was far from successful, and in the last half of the 19th cent. British troops repeatedly battled tribal groups. The British retained a tenuous hold on the region until they left the subcontinent in 1947.
A 1948 agreement granted the Tribal Areas a special administrative status in Pakistan, which allowed them to remain semiautonomous and base their administration on traditional tribal rules, but the inhabitants did not have full Pakistani citizenship rights. The system was codified in the 1973 constitution. In the early 21st. cent. the Pakistani Taliban were a major force in the region, and the Pakistani army conducted a number of offensives against Islamic militants in parts of the FATA. The FATA, particularly the Waziristans, were also alleged to be a stronghold for Al Qaeda. Reforms that would give the inhabitants full citizenship and merge the FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were enacted in 2018, and the FATA was dissolved, though some aspects of the merger were to be completed by 2020. The former agencies and regions became provincial districts.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pakistan and Bangladesh Political Geography