Federally Administered Tribal Area, (FATA) has been refused political integration with the rest of the country since 1947. The population of the region got their right to vote almost 50 years after independence but to this day political parties cannot nominate their candidates from the area. It is ironic that so far, while the MPs from FATA can legislate for the rest of the country, they cannot do for themselves.

The ruling party in Islamabad realised, though after 70 years, that the people of FATA are also citizens of the country. Hence, committees were made to mainstream FATA. A proposed bill, under the title of Riwaj Act, was aimed to bring reforms in FATA. But due to reservations of the allied political parties, Pakistan Muslim League decided to delay the reforms process.

This decision, naturally, made those disappointed who thought that the first step of any such reforms would be the merger of the region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). The parliamentarians from FATA, on Saturday, threatened to paralyse the government machinery from working if the proposed reforms were not implemented swiftly. The frustration of the elected members from the region is reflected in a statement given by the parliamentary leader of FATA in the National Assembly Shah Gul Afridi, “We expect the government would force us to stage a sit-in in front of parliament house…”

It is important to remember that the purpose of proposed reforms is not a territorial merger of FATA with KPK. One important goal of the draft bill is to grant the people of FATA fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen of Pakistan under the Constitution. So far, these people do not have access to the fundamental rights. A draconic law governs the people of the region, Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Though the Prime Minister had already directed the Minister for Law and Justice to take all the necessary steps required to mainstream FATA, the bureaucratic delays have made the parliamentarians of FATA upset.

Mainstreaming FATA is the need of the hour. The ruling party must take bold decisions in this regard without looking for securing its political interests. In case the present government fails to integrate the region with KP or to consider the demands of the people, it will make the tribesmen embittered. While hoping that the incumbent government will work on an emergency basis to mainstream FATA, all aspects need to be covered including the economic ones. The citizens of FATA deserve their right, and the political leadership of Pakistan has reneged on its promise of mainstreaming the region.