Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan is committed to bringing the no man’s land, i.e. recently merged federally administered tribal areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), into national ambit. His being adamant to utilise all available resources for bringing the region at par with the rest of the country is praiseworthy. Though Imran enjoys government in three provinces and centre, yet provinces, except for KP, may not agree on diverting a chunk of their development funds under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award to mainstream FATA.

Yet, despite all the possible challenges that Imran may face, it is a golden chance for Imran to change the fate of the region. Imran, as the prime minister, is enjoying considerable influence to not only invest in the human development of the area but he can also bring political and legal reforms that are necessary to extend the state’s writ in the region. Imran, it seems, is aware of the fact that mere integration of FATA with KP will not solve the problems that the locals of the area are facing. Real reforms will be only seen if the people of FATA get equal political, judicial and economic rights that the rest of the population of the country enjoy.

While Imran has vowed to prioritise the health and education sector of the areas that constitute FATA, providing people with economic opportunities and activities are equally important. The region is one of the most impoverished regions of the country. Data gathered from FATA shows that the area demonstrates some of the lowest human, social and economic development indicators in the country.

When it comes to literacy rate, it is 33% that is lower than the average national literacy rate. The health sector also reveals poor figures. Slightly above 30 per cent of children under two years are fully immunised, where the national figure stands at 76 per cent. Likewise, the unemployment rate in FATA is the highest when all stats of all the backward areas are taken into consideration, i.e. 38 per cent male population make it to the workforce. The gender gap in all these sectors is too wide to overcome without any laying down any concrete policy for the purpose.

The PM will be taking a right step in the right direction if local government is introduced in the region. To a large extent, the absence of representative local and provincial governments and district administration structures explains the lack of access to public services. Khan’s commitment – if regularly followed by keeping a check on the state’s progress – of granting socio-economic services to the tribesmen will bear fruits.