Mainstreaming the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) has been one of the most dedicated promises that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) made before coming into government. PTI had been the strongest advocate of the FATA merger with KPK and had celebrated when the tribal regions were officially merged with KPK through a constitutional amendment in May. However, the first three months of PTI’s government have not really brought to light FATA and its issues-until now.

Just as PTI’s intensely examined first 100 days in government come to a close, the Premier seems to now be initiating on his promises to FATA as he embarks on his first visit to North and South Waziristan tribal districts since assuming office. In a speech he addressed to a jirga of selected elders, Imran Khan paid homage to the sacrifices that FATA had made in the War against Terrorism. He also promised several welfare packages for FATA, including induction of tribal districts into the mega Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and three per cent share to the seven districts of the erstwhile Fata in the National Finance Commission award.

While the purpose of the visit was mostly symbolic, it was a good power move to bring attention back to FATA’s cause. FATA has been a neglected topic for a long time- the genuine grievances of the people of FATA’s have often been ignored and played politics upon by political parties when convenient. The progress for the FATA merger has been painstakingly slow- the constitutional amendment took months to pass after the idea was proposed, and no update was made on mainstreaming FATA six months after FATA was officially merged. It is good that the PM rightfully made time for FATA, and it should have been done earlier.

However, the government should keep in mind that mainstreaming FATA will not be simple or easy, and it should be dedicated proper time and resources to. Increasing FATA’s share in the NFC award or inducting FATA regions into housing schemes sound like good promises but are a difficult process- one which the government is often not the only decision maker. To make good on these promises, the government will have to work with provincial assemblies, the opposition and most importantly- the people of FATA. It is a complicated and vulnerable process that the government must take very seriously- taking in confidence MNAs from FATA like Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir would be a good first step.