The people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have every right to feel aggrieved. For years they have craved the reforms that would open the doors — there are many doors — to the development they need and so richly deserve. Reforms have been endlessly debated and just when it appears that their hopes are to be fulfilled yet another rock appears in the road. There has been an implementation committee formed, chaired by the prime minister and two months after its notification it has yet to have a single meeting. The committee came to life in December 2017 and came after a similar body was formed in March 2017, also to no avail and the road map for the implementation of reforms lies on the table unread.
There is dispute about terminology and semantics. The federal cabinet in March 2017 made a decision on the merger of Fata with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, but has now changed the word ‘merger’ to ‘mainstreaming’ seemingly at the behest of the two parties with which the government is allied. The sticking point this time is the extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court which has got caught up in the fact that all parties, irrespective of their position on any of the issues regarding the ‘merger’ or ‘mainstreaming’, are heavily embroiled in the preparations for the coming general election. It is now the Senate that put the brakes on and any resolution this side of the election looks remote.
The election is throwing spanners in the works across the political system. The release of development spending to the provinces is another area where friction may turn into anger. Millions of tribal people once again are pawns in the political game, and who knows what might be the electoral outcome — whatever it is, it is unlikely to speed a resolution to Fata problems that date far back before independence. Echoes of colonialism still ring loud, and it is a national disgrace.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2018.