The merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has been long pending due to the inefficiency of the political system despite its willingness to go ahead with the move. The reconstituted ninth National Finance Comm¬ission (NFC) on Friday rejected a demand from Khyber Pakhtun¬khwa to make an interim arrangement for additional funds. Several key members were absent from the meeting and the existing commission did not have the authority to finalise the funds. Under such circumstances, there is more confusion than clarity as to how the project will be pursued. FATA has remained one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped areas of Pakistan, particularly due to the wave of terrorism which affected the region for a while.

In order to merge the region smoothly within KP, it is necessary that the government identifies all key stakeholders and empower the body responsible for this decision to pursue additional funds. The suggestion given by Sindh is to either bear the additional expenditure from its own pocket or levy a special tax as a short-term measure for raising the funds for the purpose of supporting the merger in the interim period till the commission finalised the new award. If such a policy is pursued without additional funds awarded as a result of the NFC award, there is a fair chance that this will not be a politically sound move. The distribution of the NFC award should be based on the province’s need for the funds and at this time, both KP and Balochistan fall under the category and the revision should be made while considering this factor.

The merger is a critical step in mainstreaming and developing the region, and so far the attention paid to it after the initial legislation is woefully lacking. This land needs to develop if the gains of the military operation are to be solidified. Without infrastructural development and the allotment of funds, the masses will be further alienated and without such provisions, their union with the mainstream will be difficult. Such instances give rise to radicalism in a state and the government should do everything in their capacity to avoid such a development. At the same time, the government should also ensure that the issue does not become politicised, so that the plan can be materialised.