ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain being briefed on Fata reforms by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Friday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain being briefed on Fata reforms by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Friday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: All hurdles in the way of the proposed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been removed as all parliamentary parties have given their consent to the plan.

The process of bringing Fata under the administrative control of the KP government will begin after approval of the plan by the federal cabinet which is likely to meet next week.

Earlier, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) expressed their reservations over the merger, but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government managed to persuade the two parties for the plan. The PML-N, Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami have demanded immediate merger of Fata with KP.

“We have removed all the bottlenecks which came in the way of implementation of merger of Fata with KP,” Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch told Dawn on Friday after a meeting of the Fata reforms committee, headed by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, with President Mamnoon Hussain at the presidency.

Mr Baloch, who is a member of the five-member committee, briefed the president on the Fata reforms.

The committee was formed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Nov 8, 2016, to finalise reforms in the tribal areas. It had submitted to the prime minister as well as the National Assembly a report on the Fata reforms recommending the merge of Fata with KP for a transition period of five years.

But the cabinet deferred implementation on the report on Dec 16 and the prime minister asked the committee to seek consensus of all the stakeholders and remove reservations of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai over the proposed reforms package.

Besides the merger of Fata with KP, a 10-year development package of Rs121 billion has also been allocated for the tribal areas.

“We have addressed the concern of JUI-F and PkMAP,” Mr Baloch said but did not elaborate. He said the Fata reforms report would be presented before the cabinet again for approval.

“Implementation of Fata reforms is a matter of few days as the federal cabinet will meet next week to give final nod to the merger plan and reforms package,” he added.

Fata is being governed by the British-era law called Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) Act which legal experts say is a violation of universal human rights and contradicts the 1973 Constitution.

The people of the area have also raised their voices against what they called the black law. In the past, several committees were formed to reform the FCR, but they failed to do so.

The president’s spokesman said that during the meeting President Hussain praised the committee members for framing comprehensive Fata reforms in consultation with all stakeholders and called for early implementation of the recommendations for transforming the lives of the tribal people.

KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister for Law Zahid Hamid and other senior officials attended the meeting.

Earlier, Maulana Fazl alleged that the committee had violated its mandate as it was tasked with proposing reforms for political mainstreaming of Fata, and not to suggest its merger with the province.

The National Assembly was recently informed that 15 different attempts had been made to streamline the tribal region, but each time the people at the helm of affairs backed out when it came to implementation.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2017