PESHAWAR: The federal government has dropped Fata reforms from its cabinet meeting agenda at the last minute, pouring cold water on expectations and enthusiasm among political activists anticipating a nod to end the colonial-era deprivation of social, political and human rights of millions of people.

Sources said recommendations of the Fata Reforms Committee, headed by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, were due to come before the federal cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday for formal approval.

However, the item was dropped from the agenda at the last minute, they added.

A parliamentarian from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas confirmed to Dawn that the item had been dropped from the agenda and vowed to resist all moves aimed at thwarting Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“We are going to resist all those seeking to stop Fata’s merger with KP and do away with FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulation),” Shah Jee Gul Afridi, MNA from Khyber tribal region, said on phone from Islamabad. There was no official comment regarding the removal of Fata reforms from the cabinet agenda, but it is widely believed that the federal government might have done so to avoid trouble with two of its political allies — Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakhtun­khwa Millii Awami Party (PkMAP) — and address their concerns.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI and Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s PkMAP have opposed Fata’s merger with KP and called for a referendum to seek tribesmen’s opinion on the matter.

Ironically, PkMAP has no representative in parliament from Fata, while JUI-F has only one member from South Waziristan.

Maulana Fazl had in a TV talk show argued that when referendum could be held in East Timor and Scotland, this could also be done in Fata to ascertain the will of its people.

His critics say those referenda were held to seek people’s opinion whether they wanted to stay or form a separate state.

The surprising move came just when a representative convention of tribal people from Fata met at the Convention Centre in Islamabad on Monday to demand Fata’s merger with KP and representation in the KP Assembly in the 2018 elections.

The convention also demanded judicial reforms and local bodies’ elections in the tribal regions in line with the system functional in KP and threatened to launch a long march on the federal capital on March 13 if its demands were not met.

“We are meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) to discuss and plan our next line of action,” the MNA from Fata, who was one of the principal hosts of Monday’s convention, told Dawn.

Published in Dawn February 7th, 2017