The colonial laws denied basic legal rights — the right to a trial, for instance — and used collective punishment against tribes or families for the offenses of an individual. The regulations, coupled with the lack of economic development, have led to a pervading sense of neglect and disenfranchisement among the tribal population. Over the years, the tribal regions have remained lawless, providing a haven for militants, gun runners and drug smugglers.
Without provincial status, the regions have also suffered from a lack of national investment. Much of the area, with an estimated population of five million, lacks clean drinking water and has limited health care, education and telecommunication facilities.
“Today, this house has approved a historic bill, which will have very positive effects for Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on the floor of Parliament. “We need to provide people of the tribal regions with all those facilities that are available to the people in the rest of Pakistan.”
Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, who is seen as the top challenger in general elections expected by the end of July, called the amendment a triumph of the people. Mr. Khan has long advocated the merger of the tribal regions into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where his political party holds power.
The country’s powerful military also put its weight behind the merger, saying that it wanted to focus on the country’s eastern and western borders and that a single system would help bring stability to the regions.