Islamabad: Pakistan’s tribespeople of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) celebrated the passage of bill, paving the way to bringing the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas, known as Fata, into the political mainstream.

Dancing to drumbeats, people gathered at Parachinar, the capital of Kurram Agency, and the largest city in Fata, to hail the passage of the new bill that promises prosperity and peace after years of mayhem and war.

The landmark bill to merge Fata with the neighbouring province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was passed by the National Assembly on Thursday and by the Senate on Friday by an overwhelming 71-5 vote. The bill aims to extend political, administrative and socioeconomic reforms in the militancy hit tribal areas.

During a news conference at Parachinar Press Club, Senator Sajjad Turi said the merger spelt actual freedom for the people of Fata and would pave the way for progress in the north western region.

Senator Sajjad Turi, Zahid Hussain, Abrar Jan Turi, Ali Begum, Mansab Bangash and other leaders said that the people of Fata would now be able to enjoy real freedom. They said the bill had foiled all the conspiracies being hatched against the Fata people and given them their due rights.

The KP-Fata merger offers Fata’s five million citizens access to fundamental rights under the constitution. The tribes people residing in seven agencies namely Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur, North Waziristan and South Waziristan, would now enjoy equal rights to gain access to health, education and development funds along with other provinces.

Locals said the bill would end decades-long deprivation faced by the people of Fata after merger with the KP province. Many people in Landikotal, Khyber Agency, also celebrated the achievement, saying that the abolition of Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and changes in the administrative and judicial system of Fata had been a long-standing demand of the tribal people.

A local journalist, Attaullah Afridi, said that the century-old repressive FCR law was finally abolished due to untiring efforts of political parties. “It’s time for the Fata people to reject non-political people and bring capable people to the Parliament,” he was quoted as saying by Geo News.

While many appreciated the merger, some people said this step had been taken in haste. Fazlur Rahman Afridi, a local resident, said instead of the merger, Fata should have been given the status of a province, adding that the merger will increase the problems of Fata.

Some locals have raised their concerns that at a time when the Fata people are celebrating the passage of Fata merger bill, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the party who opposed the merger, would now block the passage of the bill by the KP Assembly. JUI-F Fata leader Mufti Abdul Shakoor also reportedly said that the party would halt the bill in the KP Assembly.

KP Assembly is where the bill would now be presented where it should be passed with a two-thirds vote before the expiry of its term on May 28, three days before the National Assembly’s dissolution. The bill would then be presented before President who would sign it into a law.

If the bill does not get through the KP Assembly, then the fate of Fata merger will be in the hands of new representatives to be elected in the coming general elections.