The common tradition in Pakistan is that the nation congratulates each other on events before they understand the ramifications of a particular event. The first step that has been taken to mainstream Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is an extension of the jurisdiction of Peshawar High Court (PHC) and Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC). While it is a timely initiative, however, the proposed bill is not going to achieve anything on its own. Legal experts are cynical about the bill’s efficacy to the extent that they are doubtful if the government is even willing to mainstream the region. One can fear the government’s move as just eyewash or a half-hearted attempt because the bill is not enforceable with immediate effect.

The government, subjecting the bill to notifications by the federal government, which could be different for different tribal areas, is defeating the purpose of the whole exercise. Moreover, the reluctance of the government to repeal Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901 (FCR) also makes the government’s action ineffectual as it stands. If the state is not serious in repealing the draconian law, clamors of mainstreaming FATA is nothing but deceiving the people of the region. If the tribal areas are governed under the notorious FCR – which have their own legal systems clashing with the superior judiciary – the government’s self-congratulatory tone needs to be tempered.

Extending the higher courts’ jurisdiction will bring nothing good to the people of the tribal areas if the state does not repeal FCR. If the government wants to appreciate the sacrifices of the tribal people that they have rendered for the nation in the war on terror, the government needs to implement the Civil Court Ordinance 1962 to replace the unjust judicial structure under which people’s lives are governed.

The “reform” is also not complete without the merger. It is understandable that merging FATA with KP is not an easy task, yet it is of utmost importance to merge the two regions without any further delay. The federal government needs to come up with a detailed plan on delimitation and the merger plan with KP. The federal government needs to come up with a timeline on the subject. Giving a timeframe will serve the purpose of check and balance mechanism on the government.

But if the process lingers on and no specific timeline is presented for integration of FATA with KP, few reforms like extending the jurisdiction of superior courts are no real effort to change the fate of the tribal people. A complete merger with KP without any intentions of delaying the process will bring actual reform.