The merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) may not be a distant dream anymore as discussions on FATA reforms culminated with the majority of members supporting this move while suggesting ways to make the transition a smooth as possible. Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz suggested that the people of FATA should be provided with the opportunity to elect their representatives for the provincial assembly in the general election 2018, as they should not have to wait five more years till the next election.

The FATA issue has been lingering for over two decades and now finally popular support has urged that the tribal area no longer faces exclusion from the progress of the rest of the country. This merger has been agreed upon through painstaking effort of all political representatives, tribal leaders, civil society members and non-profit organisations. Their effort is highly commendable as the technical, legal and constitutional problems in finalising such a massive undertaking were immense. The sooner these problems are resolved the sooner larger issues of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) settlement, reconstruction and infrastructure development in FATA can be addressed.

The proposal has been presented to allocate Rs 20 billion to begin infrastructure development and setting up a local government system in FATA, including a provision of Riwaj Law in the reforms for those people who want to resolve their disputes through the Jirgas instead of courts. Before these proposals go to the Parliament for legislation, consultations with the people are not only important but necessary and sensitivity should be displayed towards upholding their cultural traditions and norms. On the other hand, the merger will also mean that the people will be held accountable according to the law and order of the whole country, which means improved access to rights for women and minorities.

The government must make this transition a top priority so that the people of FATA have access to better education, health and development facilities. Proper representation of Fata in the provincial assembly is necessary to truly give them a voice, which has not been the case till today. There should be a special share in the provincial cabinet for Fata for at least 20 years to include the tribesmen. This transition will be a particular challenge for the PTI government in KP, and a large responsibility lies on them to ensure that reform is brought as quickly as possible for the peace of the whole province.