IN what could be described a historic first step towards bringing the so far neglected tribal areas into the national mainstream, the National Assembly Friday passed a bill extending the jurisdiction of Supreme Court of Pakistan and Peshawar High Court to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In fact the incumbent government won the hearts of the tribal people by getting it passed with the support of the opposition when it did not take into account the reservations of its ally JUI (F) whose lawmakers till the last moment did their best to again bulldoze the bill.
Indeed the people of FATA, who have given innumerable sacrifices for the sake of country’s peace and security, deserve to be given same rights and privileges enjoyed by the people of other areas. In fulfilment of a long overdue pledge, the passage of the bill will enable the tribal people to file their appeals before the SC and the PHC and get their grievances addressed as any other citizen of the country. The move will also help further improve law and order situation there as it will greatly help control illegal activities being carried out by unscrupulous or anti-state elements. Whilst the beginning has made which will see freeing the tribal people from the evil and black clutches of FCR, it is not time to be complacent but gear up efforts towards the fast paced development of the tribal areas as promised in the FATA reforms package. It is matter of satisfaction that the lawmakers from both the treasury and opposition benches speak equally for development of tribal areas but it is time that they also compel their governments in the provinces to contribute towards the welfare of the tribal people who put their lives and future at risk for the security of whole country. Now a united front needs to be formed to heal their wounds by rebuilding and reconstructing their lives, thus paving the way for early merger of FATA with KPK which will enable the tribal people to advocate their rights both at the provincial assembly as well as the lower and upper houses. Those trying to sabotage the FATA reforms should demonstrate maturity, rise above their petty political interests and rather become part of the process for the greater cause.