The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have qualified for the main round of Pakistan's premier first-class tournament, the Quaid-e-Azam trophy. FATA, a rural part of the country, was given full regional status only in 2013 by the then PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf, making their qualification very significant.
They won their three qualifying matches, by significant margins of nine wickets against Abbottabad, 10 wickets against Faisalabad and, today, by 81 runs against Karachi Blues, to confirm their berth in the main round.
The PCB recently revamped the format of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, from last season's 26-team tournament to a new structure that comprises 16 teams - eight regional and eight departmental sides. Of the 16 teams, 12 - six regional and six departmental - gain automatic qualification on the basis of their performance last season. The last four places are filled through a qualifying round - two regional and two departmental teams - from which FATA made their way into the top competition. Lahore Blues are the other regional team promoted into the first-class competition.
"FATA's promotion to Grade I showed it was producing some splendid players and that reflected in their performances with both bat and ball," PCB chairman, Shaharyar Khan, said. "FATA's defeating Abbottabad, Faisalabad and now Karachi so convincingly is reflective of talent as well as the hard work of the players, coaching staff and management of the region. On our first circuit, the FATA Region's cricketers would get greater opportunities to express themselves while playing against the more accomplished outfits on our domestic circuit."
FATA includes 10 districts and tribal agencies including the North and South Waziristan. It borders provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, a major chunk, with Afghanistan. The region qualified after managing to pick up players from their own region and not from any other part of the country, despite the game being much less developed here than in the rest of the country. The main tournament in the region before this was an annual inter-district cricket tournament.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson