When the military operation was launched across the nation, many mooted the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) as the final step in the reconstruction and rehabilitation project, and now the lawmakers from the restive land have themselves put forward a strong proposal arguing for the same. Not only has the demand been formally made, the legislators have unanimously put their weight behind the proposal – an unprecedented event in the notoriously fractured tribal politics of the region – and hence put an end to the greatest hurdle in the merger in the past; the resistance from the people of FATA.

The arguments for such a merger are manifold. FATA is a relic of colonial rule, when the British sought to maintain a minimal presence in a province that was beyond their control, while establishing rudimentary administrative and municipal institutions, designed to manage rebellion rather than to carry out any meaningful society building. Despite piecemeal reform over the years the arrangement remains akin to the administration left behind by a conquering army – which it was – but it worked because the people of the tribal belt wanted their independence and customs to remain intact. Now that reason is no more, while other reason have risen up absolutely necessitating that FATA be bought to the modern era.

The foremost have been the rise of militancy in the region, which could be directly attributed to the lack of a modern governance system in the area. The Taliban initially made ground in the region not because of fear, that came later, but because they could provide things that the government could not. A quick an efficient justice system, be it the harsh interpretation of Shariah dished out by the Taliban, was preferred to the virtually non-existent state system. The lack of jobs, absence of education and isolation from the modern world contributed heavily to religious extremism taking root. Now the government has a chance to reverse that, it can build a region that has been neglected for decades. Building modern infrastructure, education institutions, courts, and commercial areas would bring countless jobs, and show the people of FATA the prosperity that lies in the future if the stick with the state. Furthermore, the merger would break down barriers, encourage inter region movement and inculcate a culture of plurality and democracy in an area that has lived far too long without it. Guns may have won the FATA, but roads, schools jobs and administration will keep it.