Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday stressed that for the peace and prosperity of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), it is imperative that the region is "mainstreamed" and merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa according to the wishes of its people.
Speaking at the 210th Corps Commanders' Conference at the GHQ, the army chief said that "the stability and development efforts [in Fata] must trickle down dividends of peace to the public while [the] control of cleared areas is being handed over to [the] civil administration."
"[The] key dividend remains linked to mainstreaming of Fata in line with popular public sentiments," he added.
The army chief's statement comes in the wake of a major rally staged by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) on Sunday. One of PTM's demands is the restoration of routine life in Fata, which has been at the forefront of Pakistan's fight against terrorism.
"The people of tribal areas should be given the same rights as the people of Lahore and Islamabad," one of the organisers of the PTM protest had said on Sunday while demanding the provision of basic human rights to the people of tribal areas.
Other speakers had demanded that facilities such as hospitals, schools and colleges should be provided in Fata and vowed to continue their demand for rights within the ambit of the Constitution.
Imran Khan vows to discuss PTM's grievances with army chief
Also on Wednesday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan agreed that the PTM and its leader Manzoor Pashteen's "major demands are genuine", promising to discuss them with the army chief if he forms the next federal government.
"His major demands are genuine," the PTI chief was reported to have said during a meeting with representatives of various tribes. "I will take up the matter of check posts, landmines, missing persons and other issues with the army chief if my party forms government in centre."