ISLAMABAD: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has called for devising a mechanism for setting up local governments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Talking to office-bearers and workers of PPP Fata chapter at the Zardari House here on Monday, he said the return of internally displaced people to their homes was critical to development and mainstreaming of Fata.

He criticised the government for allegedly neglecting the issue and described it as crime against the people of tribal areas.

“The mechanism for local governments should be based on adult franchise, transparency and duly empowered local bodies,” Mr Bilawal said.

PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar quoted the PPP chairman as saying: “There should be local governments in Fata so that the people participate and manage their own issues. It is a double standard because we demand LGs throughout the country, but we are not prepared to hold local polls in tribal areas,” he said.

Mr Bilawal called for separation of judiciary and the executive in tribal areas and said the local governments should have a say in the formation of tribal jirgas as an alternative to the dispute resolution mechanism.

“The driver for change in Fata will have to be tribal people and it cannot be imposed from outside. The issue of whether Fata should be made a separate province or merged with KP should be left to the people of tribal areas themselves,” he said.

The PPP chairman called for carrying forward the FCR reforms process started by his party’s government in 2011 in consultation with tribal people.

He said: “It is scandalous that internally displaced persons are still rotting in camps despite government’s claim that more than 90 per cent of tribal areas have been cleared of militants and extremists.”

Mr Bilawal asked the PPP’s central and provincial leadership and parliamentarians to force the government to resettle and rehabilitate the displaced tribal people.

Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, PPP vice president Sherry Rehman, party’s Fata coordinator Akhunzada Chatan, former federal and provincial ministers and political secretary Jamil Soomro attended the meeting.

The PPP chairman criticised the government for not introducing reform in tribal areas even though mainstreaming Fata was a central plank of the National Action Plan.

He said former president Asif Ali Zardari had recently written a letter to the prime minister on the subject but the latter had not even acknowledged it. He called upon the PPP legislators to raise the issue of Fata reforms in parliament.

Mr Bilawal said that under the Constitution tribal areas were part of Pakistan, but its people had been denied their basic rights because superior courts had no jurisdiction in those areas. “The courts have taken note of this anomaly.”

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2016