THE Federally Administered Tribal Areas have, over the last six decades, been inching towards the mainstream. But while certain notable reforms have been initiated over the past few years, the rise of militancy in the last decade has slowed the process considerably. Though security challenges have to be met, the process of reform cannot be put on hold, especially considering the fact that integration of the area may go a long way towards neutralising militancy. In this regard, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on Monday calling on the centre to extend the Supreme Court and provincial high court’s jurisdiction to Fata and to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation Tribunal. Amendments to the constitution would be required for this. The resolution also called for representation of the tribal areas in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
While the people of Fata were given the right to adult franchise in the mid-1990s, the Political Parties Act was introduced in the region last year. The colonial-era, much-derided FCR was also amended in 2011. The federal government must continue the process of reform, and this includes the question of integrating Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, or giving it separate provincial status. This point must be thoroughly debated and the majority consensus should prevail. Attention must also be paid to providing local people with employment opportunities as well as a health and education infrastructure. But perhaps the central ingredient needed for successful reform is security. However, as has been pointed out by many, abrupt and hastily enforced change may actually have a negative effect on Fata. What is required is a gradual process that introduces change incrementally. With a mix of peace, development and progressive legislation, it would be possible to bring the tribal areas at par with the rest of Pakistan.