ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari endorsed on Wednesday recommendations of a ‘Grand Assembly’ of the people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas and said the process of reforms in Fata would continue to integrate tribal people into the mainstream of national life.
Addressing the gathering at the Aiwan-i-Sadr, he said further reforms would ensure people’s active role in socio-economic development and fight against militancy.
The recommendations for reforms were made by an earlier ‘assembly’ held in Peshawar last month.
Among other measures, the assembly has called for setting up a Fata council to be elected on the basis of adult franchise; extension of the jurisdiction of high court and the Supreme Court to Fata; and letting people decide about the status of Fata – whether it would be a separate province, merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or retain the present status.
Organised by the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation, the assembly was attended by a large number of people, including tribal elders, religious leaders and political and social activists.
Mr Zardari said a number of measures had been taken over the past few years for the development of tribal people. A new era of reforms had been ushered in after more than a century.
Referring to differing points of view about peace and reforms in the region, he said some people believed that for tribal areas peace was more important than reforms because in their opinion reforms should follow, not precede, peace. Another view, he said, was that political reforms acted as a catalyst for peace.
The president said: “We believed that reforms and efforts for peace should go hand in hand and that people of tribal areas, more than the land, should be given strategic importance. We firmly believed that dynamics of reforms will release energies to promote peace and development.”
He said that the change and forward movement was the destiny of the people and that would continue.
Mr Zardari said the people of tribal areas had rendered sacrifices for the country and had suffered most in the war against militancy. Militants targeted men, women and even children, but the people defied the militants and took them on.
He said the militants attacked schools and young girls like Malala, but their cowardly acts had further strengthened the resolve of people to spread education and these sacrifices would not go in vain.
The president said he had been continuously pleading the case of tribal people before the international community and had been calling for expediting work on reconstruction opportunity zones in the conflict-ridden areas to provide economic opportunities to the affected people.
Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation Khalid Shafi presented to the president the ‘declaration for reforms’ adopted in Peshawar on June 22.