LAHORE - Experts and politicians at a roundtable on Thursday urged the government for mainstreaming the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to put an end to the decade long militancy engulfing the entire region into its grip.

The conference, titled “Implementation of Fata Reforms: Way Forward (View from Punjab),” was organised by the University of Management and Technology to bring a select group of scholars, opinion makers, intelligentsia, government functionaries and other stakeholders together to deliberate upon the future course of the government’s reforms agenda and come up with a workable strategy on how to move forward.

The moot also aimed at earning national ownership for the longstanding issue confronting Fata that has been affecting not only the region but also the whole fabric of the Pakistani society.

Chaired by UMT Rector Dr Muhammad Aslam, the conference was addressed by Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Pasha, Punjab Government spokesman Malik Ahmad, PTI’s MNA Munazza Hassan, PML-Q’s MNA Khadija Farooqi, PTI’s MPA Sadia Sohail, PPP’s Aziz ur Rahman Chan, media representatives including The Nation Editor Salim Bokhari and Qayum Nizami, security analyst Habib Akram, Brig (r) Ghazanfar, rights activist Abdullah Malik, academicians including Dr Nosheena of Punjab University, Prof Dr Shoaib Parvez, Dr Shabbir Sarwar and Dr Mian Hanan Ahmad among other members of intelligentsia, media and civil society.

Majority of the speakers were of the view that this was the right time and a historic opportunity for mainstreaming the region, which should be seized without further delay; while the procedural issues for the integration can be addressed in due course of time.

The five-year transition period for an incremental approach for Fata’s merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was too long, they felt, stating that there were internal and external forces that can potentially sabotage the present willingness and near consensus of the people of the tribal areas for the much needed change and, as a consequence, the process itself if it was not done immediately.

The speakers cautioned that if things went wrong this time too, this would not be the people of Fata only but the entire country to bear the brunt of consequences.

The participants also underscored the need that the people of KP should be sensitised to prepare for this major development, too.

“We have to reform Fata as acting against terrorists by military operations is not enough,” Finance Minsiter Ayesha Pasha said, adding that the people of Fata are facing number of challenges and they need to feel that they are the stakeholders in the process.

The speakers also argued how the provincial contributions in NFC award can help the troubled region out of the current crises and lead it towards an integrated, tolerant and democratic society.