Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have constitutionally been merged into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province amid protests from JUI-F and PkMAP, as well as opposition from Mohmand Agency tribal chieftains. This historic move came into effect in less than 10 days. The Pakistan National Assembly, Pakistan’s Senate and the KP provincial assembly respectively passed the bill with a clear majority within three consecutive days, leading to the President of Pakistan signing the bill and making it part of the 25th Amendment in the Constitution, permanently. This is historic and unprecedented in a sense that it happened after 71 years. The draconian colonial era Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) law stands abolished. With the latest amendment to the Constitution, after its passage from both the National Assembly and Senate and with the signing by President Mamnoon Hussain, the word ‘FATA’ exists no more in the Pakistani Constitution. This aims to end the discrimination we have been witnessing within our own society, citizenry and administrative setup for the last seven decades. This has also brought the semi-autonomous border areas at the centre into the mainstream political fold by incorporating them into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The seven tribal agencies, which are home to some five million people, had long been subjected to collective punishment and beyond the protection of courts. The all-powerful political agents had been holding the centre stage of power for the last seven decades using the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations which left the residents with no recourse to courts and liable to face collective punishment for the crimes of tribe members. The word ‘FATA’, exists no more in the Pakistan Constitution, to end the discrimination we have been witnessing within our own society, citizenry and administrative setup Once implemented, this would usher in a widespread political reform and see the writ of Pakistan’s courts extend into areas currently ruled by powerful political agents in a throwback to the British Raj. Manzur Pashteen who had gathered the disgruntled youth from Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai, and South Waziristan agencies, owing to apparently unavoidable sufferings because of uprooting during the operations, has got the satisfactory answer. Sanity has prevailed upon the government as well as the military to realise the gravity of the situation and get it passed before the end of PML-N led government’s five-year tenure on May 31, 2018. Now the PTM’s anti-army slogans have lost logic of any acceptance. The Bill also ensures extended powers for the Gilgit-Baltistan province, which is another prodigious step forward towards empowering the smaller provinces and bringing them at par with the mainstream parts of the country. This would help end sense of deprivation from amongst the people of the province and people at the helm of affairs, and therefore, help integrate them further into the federation. Hats off to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who has spent the last 10 months restlessly and didn’t wait for a new government to come in next three to six months. He wisely chose not to leave the decision for the next government as even Imran Khan was expecting a three to six months’ likely delay in the general elections. JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP’s Mahmood Achakzai, the partners of coalition with the government, had been opposing the merger. Nawaz Sharif reportedly had the merger on the agenda but the unfolding circumstances didn’t allow him to afford to lose both the influential politicians who stood beside him during the PTI dharna and beyond. Now, they have parted ways, though not announced. The people of FATA have already been contributing to the progress of Pakistan. They have enormous talent and have excelled in every field of life. A major part of their population has already joined the armed forces as a career service. In the education sector, their contribution is also huge. They are setting up businesses in the country from Peshawar to Karachi. Many of them have bought immovable properties in the Punjab and Sindh. With PTI’s decision of picking a tribal leader from Bara, Manzoor Afridi, for the slot of Caretaker Chief Minister of would-be united Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Imran Khan’s party has proved that they are all set to empower the people of tribal areas who have equally good management skills and political acumen. Political observers have whole heartedly welcomed the merger, advising the nation, “We must welcome this monumental moment for the people of FATA, and rejoice in their finally getting their share of our democratic constitutional protections. We must welcome the inclusion of people of FATA into the fold our fundamental rights. And with it, we must reclaim the promise of Pakistan, and extend its empire to the Tribal Areas.” According to an analyst, it’s important to note that the military under the leadership of General Bajwa, the army has supported the merger of FATA. “One analyst notes that “General Bajwa has pursued, pushed and made certain that the implementation of the Sartaj Aziz Committee’s 2015 report regarding the merger of FATA becomes a reality.” It’s heartening to see Pakistan’s military and civilian elites coming together on issues of strategic and national significance.” It has been an impression prevailing in the higher circles that “the military operations alone cannot achieve lasting peace unless the civilian structures support the former with equal efforts on their end. If Pakistan is to overcome an array of challenges that the country faces, the state institutions need to put a united front when it comes to their working.” Meanwhile, the Pakistan Foreign Office has vehemently rejected the Afghan government’s reservations over the FATA-KP merger. An Afghan presidential office press release issued from Kabul on May 26 said the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was against the agreements inked between Afghanistan and Britain. According to AIP, the press release said, the Afghan government has always shared the concerns regarding the military interference of Pakistani forces and bringing changes in the political situation of the tribal people living along the Durand Line with Pakistan and international community through diplomatic channels. Pakistan’s Foreign Office called it uncalled for and illogical saying the people of Pakistan have every right of self determination to exercise according to own will and wishes. Defence observers called it blatant interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and warned the Kabul government to stay away from poking in “our own issues”. They see the protest demonstrations held in Peshawar not only sponsored by JUI-F and PKMAP but also being encouraged by the Kabul government by raising false issues of Durand Line, making it a controversial dividing line. The author contributes freelance. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, June 6th 2018.