The demand of the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has after 69 years created momentum, which has forced the state of Pakistan to mainstream the area and give the people their fundamental rights. However, it is highly regrettable that the federal government is employing delaying tactics and dropped FATA reforms from its cabinet meeting agenda at the last minute, just as the people were pinning their hopes on finally putting an end to the colonial-era deprivation of social, political and human rights of millions of people in the region.

There have been serious attempts at thwarting FATA’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, even though it should have been done right away as recommendations have already been approved and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could have carried out the reforms. Instead, the federal government is busy entertaining the whims of its political allies, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), effectively denying representation to the people of FATA in the KP assembly after the 2018 elections, which could have helped enforce the reforms more effectively. These parties don’t have a large support base in FATA, and their resistance is not for the benefit of FATA, but for their own survival in KPK.

The government cannot, in good conscience ignore a programme it has gotten behind so vociferously in the recent past. Allies that might or might not aid the ruling party in avoiding an all-out attack in key issues such as Panama cannot use their friendship as a bargaining chip, and the government on its part, cannot forgo a promise it had made so frequently, and during its rule too. Doing so would mean, that at the very least, the people of FATA and KPK will not forget this duplicity scarcely a year before re-election all that easily.

Under the plan devised by the FATA reforms committee, the tribal areas would merge with KP and the notorious Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would be phased out over a period of five years. Another significant reason for this delay could be to avoid providing FATA with the funds it needs to successfully integrate with KPK, or to grant the latter a greater share in the NFC award moving forward. The government wants all the provinces to agree to a four percent cut from their divisible pool, so that two percent could go to FATA, whereas provincial governments want the federal government to take responsibility. In this debate, the lives of nearly 6 million people are in the lurch, and the rights of the people remain denied.