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PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf workers from Fata occupied the road in front of the Governor’s House for several hours on Friday to protest the delay in the merger of their region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Amid hot and extreme humid weather, the protesters drenched in sweat staged the sit-in and parked a shipping container on the road.

Carrying the party’s flags and banners and shouting slogans ‘go FCR go’, they had come to the city from Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur and other areas of Fata.

PTI’s Insaf Student Federation Fata chapter and office-bearers of the party’s other sister organisations had held the rally in which a group of women were in attendance.

However, no Fata parliamentarian was present in the protest.

The PTI leaders said the federal government was deliberately delaying reforms in Fata.

Leader Iqbal Afridi threatens attack on Governor’s House

They called for the immediate implementation of the recommendation of Fata Reforms Committee and merger of tribal areas with KP.

The sit-in was organised amid the possibility of Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi meeting Fata parliamentarians in Islamabad next week and getting a briefing on the process of reforms in the region.

A six-member committee headed by adviser to the former prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz had compiled report about reforms in Fata in 2016. The major recommendation of the report, which was presented to the federal cabinet, was the Fata’s merger with KP, which stirred a controversy.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, allies of the

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ruling the centre, had opposed the proposed merger and demanded the ‘mainstreaming’ of Fata and thus, creating more confusion about the future of the tribal region.

Addressing workers, PTI Khyber Agency president Iqbal Afridi said tribal people had long been protesting for their rights but the successive governments didn’t take the protest seriously.

“Next time, we will attack the Governor’s House instead of staging dharna (sit-in) in Peshawar,” he warned, asking for the provision of equal rights to the tribal people.

He said the Fata people’s protest was meant for securing fundamental rights only and that it had no other agenda.

Said Ahmad Jan from Bajaur Agency said the PTI demanded the immediate merger of tribal areas with KP, extension of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Parliament to the Fata and provision of basic rights to the local residents.

Coming down heavily on Maulana Fazlur Rehman for opposing the Fata-KP merger, he said the JUI-F chief didn’t protest when militants killed innocent people and destroyed their houses and other infrastructure.

He said if the Frontier Crimes Regulation was such a good law, then the JUI-F chief should ask the government to extend it to his home district, Dera Ismail Khan.

“Maulana Fazlur Rehman and (PkMAP chief) Mehmood Khan Achakzai may delay Fata reforms but can’t block it forever,” he said, demanding the representation to the people of Fata in the KP Assembly in the next elections.

Hafeez Khan from Frontier Region said despite discriminatory policies, tribal people had never showed disloyalty to Pakistan and even announced allegiance to the new state in 1947 without referendum.

He said Fata people had laid down their lives in 1948, 1965 and 1971 wars and protected the country’s western borders without asking for financial benefits.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017

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