Divisions between various stakeholders on the future of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas still exist, and the government needs to ensure that they are removed before moving any further with the reforms plan.

The nature of the reforms themselves still hang in the balance as many FATA senators have voiced their displeasure at the plan to merge FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). They stand behind the second most popular option, that of making FATA an independent province and giving it special status like Gilgit-Baltistan. However, given the shared culture and the lack of important resources such as electricity, it is important that FATA is made part of a province that can support it in the initial years.

KPK might not be the richest province of the country, as pointed by senators such as Senator Saleh Shah, but FATA on its own would be completely bereft of resources in the initial stages. As a separate province, KPK will not be personally invested in the struggle to bring FATA at par with the rest of the country, but if FATA’s people are a part of KPK’s electorate, any future governments would have a personal stake in its development. It is also important to understand that the tribal agencies and its people are inextricably linked to KPK, and the borders of districts are often completely blurred. Any move to chalk this out with accuracy will require a great deal of time, and given the arcane nature of FCR, this is time the people of FATA do not have.

Chief Minister KPK, Pervaiz Khattak is correct in attempting to speed up any potential merger so that it takes place before the 2018 elections, because the people of FATA would then be included in making the decision to choose their next government.

At the end of the day, legal reforms and deciding FATA’s provincial status is only half the work required to give the people of FATA their rights. Healthcare services, an efficient policing mechanism, the provision of education, water, energy and economic development are only some of the issues that need to be addressed once the fate of FATA has been decided. Given that many stakeholders in the area are behind the plan to merge it into KPK, surely working on removing the qualms of the opponents of this merger will speed up the process greatly. The senators that currently oppose the move should be asked to explain their reasons, and any valid concerns can be addressed by the government. The exact details of a merger have yet to be chalked out, which is why there is still lots of room for negotiation. But with only a year and a half left before the next elections, the government has a duty to ensure that this process is completed by then.