In a historic move, the Pakistan’s parliament passed the 31st amendment bill this week, scrapping the old colonial laws to merge Federally Administered Tribal Aareas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province – a demand made by majority of FATA people. The tribal areas will formally become part of KP after the bill passed by parliament which is endorsed by KP assembly and signed by the president. Though some people oppose the merger and ask for independent province to have greater autonomy on their resources. I also support FATA to become an independent province, but, in current circumstances, I think merger with KP is the most viable options. I have 12 reasons to support my stand on the merger of two Pashtun regions. FATA had long been kept in isolation from the mainstream institutions of the country and with the merger of the region the area people will get access to established setup of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In case of separate province the government would need to create and establish new departments from the scratch which would not only be time consuming but would also incur huge costs.
Here are 12 reasons to support the merger of tribal areas with KP.
- After the merger, the Electoral College for the Senate would increase which would make it difficult for potential senators to purchase vote of 18 lawmakers instead of four or five. This will discourage horse-trading and corruption in the Senate elections.
- FATA would get more significance in the national politics and affairs of the state as it would have increased representation in the provincial assembly. A good number of lawmakers from FATA in provincial assembly will enable them to have say in making or breaking provincial government and elect chief minister from tribal region.
- Though FATA would lose eight fixed seats of Senate and have smaller representation in the Upper House after 31st constitutional amendment, but tribal lawmakers in the National Assembly and provincial assembly will not only carry development works but also carryout necessary legislation for their region which was not possible in 71 years’ of history of Pakistan.
- Punjab is also likely to be divided into two provinces post elections in case Imran Khan or Asif Zardari came into power. If it happens, KP combined with FATA would have a bigger role in electing the prime minister. It was earlier impossible due to the dominance of Punjab in the National Assembly.
- FATA has been ruled by a few individuals including political agent and his blue-eyed tribal elders who did not work according to aspirations of people and protect a particular class. The merger will encourage youth both to have say in running the affairs of the region. Powers will be shared among various stakeholders instead of few individuals which will help strengthen democracy and rule of law in FATA.
- After coming under an established set up, investors from Pakistan and across the world would be encouraged to invest in new businesses and industries in the seven tribal agencies. This will create job opportunities for FATA youth.
- People of FATA have been living under three sets of laws; Tribal Riwaj , FCR and Constitution of Pakistan besides Shariah law imposed by Taliban a couple of years back. Now they will be bound to only follow the constitution of the country and no other law which will make their lives easy.
- People of FATA and KP already share common cultural heritage, tribal and historical background, so the merger would be smooth and sustainable.
- FATA has been denied share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award for last 71 years. But after merger, 3 percent share in NFC would be awarded to FATA which will bring development and prosperity in the region.
- Tribal areas would get rid of the FATA Secretariat after the merger with KP which will help reduce corruption; red-tapism and improve governance and accountability. This will bring comfort and prosperity in lives of tribal people.
- The federation of Pakistan would become stronger than ever as it would be having tribal Pashtuns in the mainstream which will result in improving national security and regional connectivity with neighboring countries.
- The option of a separate province is always open. If the people of FATA are not happy with KP, they can demand a separate province in future. But currently giving a separate province to FATA is much more difficult than merger for the federal government. Until and unless the region is well settled and developed, it could not be given a status into a separate province.
The views expressed by this writer do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Tribal News Network (TNN).
Bakhat Zamin is English lecturer in Sadda degree college in Kurram Agency. He is also citizen reporter contributing articles on FATA issues to Tribal News Network.