The recent debates in the parliament on the reforms proposed by the government regarding FATA makes one thing very clear, that the political parties of Pakistan won’t shed the colonial vestiges, and the otherizing of the people of FATA.

In Ilaqa ghair (the no-go area), revolting Qabail will revolt under the proposed reforms if implemented. That is, if they go back to their homes from the numerous camps they are living in since more than a decade now.

The ambiguous language of the leaders of political parties’, laden with colonial legacy and elements of our ex-colonial masters, and their new stance on governmental reforms can't be seen as anything other than maintaining the status quo of FATA, which is further complicating an already broken down socio-economic fabric of the area.

 FATA has finally caught the attention and discourse of our literate, urban Pakistanis – then why is that our political parties want it to hang on to its non-existent economic, social, and crippled political life and want to continue to keep the region under deliberate political and social and economic isolation?  

Military operations and takeover by the Taliban have played havoc with an already heavily impoverished area. Agriculture, forests, water resources, and lakes have been ruined. More than 32 percent of the educational institutions in the tribal areas of Pakistan have been destroyed thanks to the militancy prevalent in the region. Along with the bombing of schools by the Taliban, the region has received a serious setback to its healthcare sector because of the targeting of polio workers. FATA, at the moment, has 41 hospitals for its seven million strong population.

PKMAP and JUI contend that replacing Frontier Crimes Regulation with the country’s regular laws is not feasible in FATA. When a party that has been democratically elected to a legislature, suggests that repealing an altogether notorious set of legislation – that was enforced in 1901, serving only to advance the imperial objectives of the British power – is not feasible, then it smacks of nothing but political opportunism and double standards. And that, too, being a Pakhtun representative party living and enjoying the benefits of the regular laws of Pakistan.

Seeing these political representatives of the Pakhtun stand in the parliament and make speeches in their impeccable Urdu (the national language of Pakistan), pleading the case against either particular reforms or the unacceptability of such changes to tribal people, doesn’t make me one bit excited as a tribal Pakhtun woman. They are living under the 1973 constitution, which provides them fundamental rights, like, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of speech, right to access to information, liberty, dignity, equal protection under law, privacy of the home, so on and so forth. Yet they content that the people of FATA are not ready for the same rights? By making such claims, the otherization of FATA and its inhabitants continues in the minds and language of the ordinary Pakistanis.

Previously, Urban Pakistanis associated only one thing with FATA: how drones fuel the insurgency and kill innocent people, firing up this war on terror. This golden opportunity that has fallen to is after 69 years of wait, shouldn’t be squandered in debates which are entirely irrelevant in 2016.

Maulana Sahib’s party, JUI, was fortunate enough to have got rid of FRC on the commencement of 1956 constitution, with his father benefitting from the 1973 constitution and becoming the democratically elected Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On the other hand, Baluchistan was released from its clutches when the 1973 constitution was enforced and continues to enjoy the benefit of achieving the status of a settled area, despite claiming to have a sizeable Pashtun population as tribal in nature as that of FATA. None of these parties objected to the abrogation of FCR; rather they claimed their due share in the struggle against an imperial power.

Having been around long enough in the power corridors of the Pakistani system, why do these parties want to keep FATA as an area “excluded” from the realm of modern development and civilisation in the name of culture and traditions? The most important aspect of the reforms in FATA would be the extension of judicial courts and its legal representation in the Parliament with the ability to make laws, and the extension of those laws to their respective agencies.

The PKMAP party suggests that changes should be made only to those articles of the FCR which violated basic human rights, instead of its wholesale repeal, and the establishment of an independent FATA Council to decide the future of the tribal areas. Why does a party which prides itself in its colonial struggle, want to hold on to a body of laws based on six chapters, 64 sections, and three schedules, which has its origins in the Murderous Outrages Regulation (FOR) enacted by the British Empire to prosecute crimes in British India? The Murderous Outrages Act 1877 was specifically devised to counter the opposition of the Pakhtuns to British rule and their primary objective was to protect the interests of the British Empire. Do we read the FCR right? Doesn't it mean Frontier "CRIME" regulations?  Is this how these parties see FATA and its people?

Mr Achakzai and JUI also rejected the idea of merging the FATA region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as recommended in the government's report. If this were to happen, he said, there would be a massive backlash that might be difficult for the country to handle.

A party whose leaders champion the unity of Pakhtuns oppose FATA's merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? Isn’t this in consonance with their historical struggle for the unification Pakhtuns as an ethnic group, and redrawing the boundaries based on geographical contiguity?

The leaders further say that “If the government’s report is implemented, it will only lead to further destruction”.  What is left in FATA to be preserved, except for the vestiges of colonial laws and its strategic location suitable for enacting further misadventure on the part of Pakistani state?

What I have understood from these statements is that if somehow, by a miracle – since I have seen the pathetic condition of the tribal people – a sizeable number living in camps manages to go back, build their destroyed homes and lives, they would revolt against the state institutions of police, courts, and state presence.  Do the leaders of these parties acknowledge the reality that a sizeable number of FATA people under voluntary and forced migration are already residing in the settled area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? They seem to suggest that the people who were forced to migrate couldn't revolt against the army operations and the Taliban’s brutality against them which destroyed their lives, school, homes and livelihood, but would revolt against the state rule of law. The irony.