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Hundreds of people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) rallied in Islamabad Monday calling on the government to abolish colonial-era British laws and merge the semi-autonomous northwestern region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Leaders of the Awami National Party, Pakistan People’s Party, Qaumi Watan Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf also joined the unexpectedly big gathering in a high-security zone. The participants demanded representation in the Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and convening of a meeting of the Council of Common Interests on the matter.

The decadent and brutal FCR must be abolished at all cost and its tyranny must be lifted from the heads of the people of FATA

The protesters are also seeking amendments to the Constitution to extend the jurisdiction of the superior courts to the tribal areas. They said that their protest would continue till President Mamnoon Hussain announced the merger of FATA into Pakhtunkhwa province.

Read more: Questioning the merger of FATA with KPK

FATA is still governed by a century-old legal code known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR).  That includes the practice of collective punishment, allowing government authorities to hold entire clans responsible for the crimes of individuals. Pakistan’s government has approved reforms abolishing the FCR and implementing national laws in the region along the border with Afghanistan, where militants once ruled and operated.

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said on Monday that those staging a sit-in in Islamabad to demand the change in the Fata status were activists of political parties and did not represent the tribesmen. Fazlur Rehman labeled the political workers who were being presented as tribesmen to serve the vested interests.

The query that would the locals and their elders are ready to replace the Rewaj and Jirga system as well as can KPK with its rather scant financial resources be able to handle the burden of FATA as well

The merger of FATA with KPK is asserted to have many ramifications. The seven tribal districts in FATA – Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan – are home to some five million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns. A merger will facilitate the people of FATA in being the same as the rest of Pakistan in terms of legal rights. The already established administrative structure of KPK can be easily extended to FATA, which will be most useful for mainstreaming of this region.

Read more: Defeating terrorism and embracing cricket: FATA hosts the historic “Peace Cup”

The already established administrative structure of KPK can be easily extended to FATA, which will be most useful for mainstreaming of this region. Supporters of FATA-KPK merger assert that such a move will be helpful in a socioeconomic uplift of the area. The natural resources that are present inside FATA will be in a better place to be utilized with safeguards in place.

The seven tribal districts in FATA – Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan – are home to some five million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns

However, there are also some obstacles that come in the way of such an endeavor. The query that would the locals and their elders are ready to replace the Rewaj and Jirga system as well as can KPK with its rather scant financial resources be able to handle the burden of FATA as well.

Read more: Merger of FATA: to be or not to be?

There is also the insidious character being played by some powerful politicians who believe a KPK-FATA merger will dilute their electoral power. Yet in the end, it must be concluded that the time for merging FATA into Pakistan has come. The decadent and brutal FCR must be abolished at all cost and its tyranny must be lifted from the heads of the people of FATA.  When the people of FATA will be free and prosperous only then will Pakistan truly be free and prosperous?

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