Aid shortfalls, ruined infrastructure and the lingering risk of attack are undermining efforts to return around one million Pakistanis to homes they fled after the military cracked down on militants along the Afghan border in FATA. Of some 5.3 million people displaced by fighting in northwestern Pakistan in recent years, a million or so remain to be resettled under a programme the authorities see as key to keeping a lid on extremist violence. The government wants those left, resettled by the end of 2016.

With support from international donors including the United States and China, Pakistan plans to refurbish bombed-out roads, irrigation networks, markets, schools and hospitals in one of the poorest areas of the country. The Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Abdul Qadir Baloch has called it a ‘mini- Marshall Plan’- comparing this aid to the one Europe got from the US after World War II.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has estimated around $800 million would be needed to resettle and rebuild the region over the next two years. However, the authorities have claimed that short term aid has been harder to come by as donor nations are focusing on humanitarian emergencies in Syria and Yemen. These insufficient funds mean people will struggle to support their families after they return having no basic social services - health, water, sanitation, food and education. Then question then is: What has the government planned for them? Why are these people then being sent back, if they will be out in the cold again? They will simply be forced to move from the region again.

The most senior and overburdened Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has been appointed the chairman of the committee to formulate reforms for FATA. The committee has visited Bajaur, Mohmand and North Waziristan agencies so far for holding consultation with lungi-holders, ulema, elders and political figures for leveling ground for the much-touted ‘political mainstreaming of FATA.

The very least FATA deserves is the sustained economic and administrative assistance of the state — and an iron-clad commitment to ensuring prosperity for FATA.

If FATA has been asked to sacrifice so much — vast sections of its people made homeless for years, surely its people deserve to be acknowledged as full and equal citizens of Pakistan? FATA must be brought in from the cold without any more delay.