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PESHAWAR: The Jamaat-i-Islami on Friday rejected the calls for holding referendum on the future of Fata and asked the federal government to immediately merge tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

JI provincial chief Mushtaq Ahmad Khan told a news conference at the party secretariat here that the calls for holding referendum on Fata’s future were a lame excuse to delay the process of reforms in the tribal areas.

“We will foil this conspiracy,” he said, adding that the merger of Fata with KP was the only viable option for the tribal region’s peace and development.

Mr. Mushtaq said the JI would launch a movement on the matter by hosting the All Fata Grand Jirga in Peshawar on Dec 4.

He said leaders of various political parties and elders from Fata would attend the jirga and that JI central chief Sirajul Haq would also address them.

Demands tribal region’s immediate merger with KP

The JI leader said his party partially accepted the Sartaj Aziz-led committee’s report about political mainstreaming of Fata and asked the government to announce the merger of tribal areas with KP without delay.

“The mainstream political parties and an overwhelming majority of tribal population have been demanding the merger of the region with KP. Only few vested interests are opposing it,” he said.

In a report, a six-member committee headed by adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz had recommended the merger of Fata with KP.

Major political parties except Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had supported the merger plan.

Some political parties demanded that the merger plan should be executed before the 2018 general elections.

The JUI-F and its likeminded tribal elders opposed the plan asking the prime minister to ensure the holding of referendum on the future of Fata.

The JUI-F wants Fata to be declared the fifth federating unit of the country.

Flanked by JI chief for Fata chapter Sardar Khan, Mr. Mushtaq asked the government to initiate reforms in the tribal region by eliminating the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

He said the decades long conflict had destroyed infrastructure in tribal areas.

The JI leader said militancy had damaged agriculture, mining and other sectors.

He said the people had lost employment; their houses had collapsed, and the ratio of poverty in Fata had increased due to militancy and availability of employment opportunities.

Mr. Mushtaq said Rs90 billion development package for the conflict-hit region was insufficient and the federal government should increase the package up to Rs500 billion.

He said the population of Fata was more than 10 million but the government in its reports had put it at 4.6 million.

The JI leader suggested that the government link all agencies of Fata through a highway and connect every tribal agency with the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Published in Dawn November 26th, 2016

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