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ISLAMABAD: The government assured the National Assembly on Thursday that implementation of long-awaited reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) would start in the next 10 days and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would make a policy statement on the issue soon.

The assurance was given by Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch in response to the speeches made by the members from Fata and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in which they had severely criticised the government for delaying the reforms aimed at mainstreaming the restive tribal areas of the country.

The minister also hinted that the prime minister, who is on an official visit to the US to address the UN General Assembly, might address the nation to take the people into confidence over the Fata issue. He said it had already been decided that Fata would be mainstreamed in five years after which its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would take place.

Shah Gee Gul Afridi sets Oct 9 deadline for govt

Mr Baloch said that as part of the first phase of the implementation of the reforms, the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would be abolished besides appointment of a chief operating officer to oversee the development activities in the area.

He asked the MNAs and senators from Fata to take a united stance on the issue and come up with unanimous recommendations which the government would definitely implement, without ifs and buts. He said 11 MNAs and 12 senators from Fata could form a committee so that they could come out with a united stance.

Mr Baloch asked the Fata members of parliament to focus on development activities in their areas for which the government planned to spend Rs100 billion in 10 years. He said that there was a need for bringing Fata on a par with other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He advised the Fata legislators not to show urgency, saying that Fata merger could not take place overnight.

Earlier, speaking on a point of order, Fata MNA Shah Gee Gul Afridi set Oct 9 deadline for implementation of Fata reforms, demanding that the assembly session should be extended for a week for this purpose. He threatened that the tribal people would stage a sit-in in Islamabad, if the government did not implement the reforms.

Shaheryar Afridi of the PTI alleged that the government was not serious about improving the living conditions in Fata which was evident from the fact that one National Assembly seat had been lying vacant for the past over four years. He alleged that the government was delaying Fata reforms for “political point-scoring” and to please some of its allies, who were opposed to the merger of Fata into KP.

The members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a token walkout from the house to register their protest over the findings of the census and the government failure to provide security to the party workers and members in Karachi.

Speaking on a point of order, Sheikh Salahuddin of the MQM said that his party and the people of Sindh had rejected the census report.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2017

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