Jamiat-i-Ulema-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s consistent opposition to the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to KPK has still not managed to reveal the exact reasons for his dissent, until now. In his discussion with reporters on Saturday, he stated that the federal government should not make any decision that puts it in direct conflict with the tribal people residing in the area. However, this mass opposition that the JUI-F leader keeps alluding to, only seems to be noticed by him. No other politician or leader seems to have witnessed the ire of the tribes, and one can only wonder if Mr Rehman is only imagining this disagreement for personal political gains.

He claims that the provinces have not agreed to giving FATA 3 percent of the NFC award to the area (which they have), that FATA parliamentarians do not support this move (most of them do) and that the tribes had reservations against the Rewaj Act. Of these, only the last argument has any substance, and should be addressed, but even in this, there’s a case to be made that the new act is a vast improvement from the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

A clear distinction needs to be drawn here; tribal leaders and members of the tribes are not always the same thing. It is in the interest of the tribal leaders to keep the status quo in place, as it keeps them in positions of influence. A merger with KPK would mean an extension of the KPK parliament to FATA, which would take away a large part of the powers wielded by the tribal leaders. It is not surprising then, that they disagree with the plan.

Tribal leaders exert complete control over their tribes in FATA, and can use the threat of punishment to cajole and coerce their followers into getting what they want. Even if tribal leaders are voicing their concerns over not wanting to be part of KPK, should we even be listening? And it’s not as if Maulana Fazlur Rehman has even given a single reason as to why the tribal leaders are unhappy. Which part of the merger undermines the rights of the people? Are sufficient facilities not being extended to FATA? Is the area being short-changed in any way? Unless Maulana Fazlur Rehman, or those behind him for that matter, can adequately prove that this is the case, they don’t have a leg to stand on.