Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has been expressing resentment against the Riwaj Act that encapsulates the framework of Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (FATA) merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). While JUI-F accuses the federal government for not involving the political parties in the important legislation, leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) claim that all parties are on board with the idea except for JUI-F.

The merger of FATA with KP is important because the territory is impoverished, lacks developmental infrastructure, and is not a part of the system at large. This means that the people have to face harsh circumstances and live at the margins because the elders refuse to be a part of the modern state system. A merger will also increase resource allocation towards KP in reference to FATA.

However, delaying tactics are being used, and since the matter rests with the National Assembly and not the people of FATA, the delay is unfair and smacks of petty politics. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ensured Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the matter of the merger with KP will not be hurried. That in no way should have meant the delaying of the process altogether. The bill was presented before the National Assembly on May 15 but has been suspended because of opposition.

Chief Minister KP, Pervez Khattak, has suggested that the matter be handed over to the provincial government because it is the most in touch with the people of FATA and knows how to settle an agreement of transition and merger.

Deferring the bill means waiting for another few years for discussion to open up and then hope that people settle for such initiatives. At this point debate was on-going. It would have been easier to convince people and push for a merger.

The Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) was passed down to us by the British Raj. It does not offer three basic rights to the individuals – appeal, the right to legal representation and the right to present reasoned evidence. The collective punishment clause holds everyone accountable for a crime committed by someone related to them. The tribal Jirga is still in place. These and many other clauses need to be done away with. This is what the JUI-F supports, a draconian colonial law.

FATA requires a new judicial system and the Riwaj Act could be a solution. However, delaying the act at this point only points towards the fact that elections are nearby and any change in provinces will lead to a change in the election outcomes.