ISLAMABAD: Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai announced on Sunday that the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would not be allowed against the people’s wishes.

At a public meeting at the Convention Centre, Mr Achakzai said no area could be merged with a province “without seeking their permission”, adding that residents of the province should have the first right to the resources of a province.

The meeting appeared to be held in response to a sit-in by parliamentarians and Fata residents demanding the merger of Fata with KP.

The sit-in was held on Oct 9, and protesters were later called to negotiate on the status of Fata by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and assured their demands would be considered.

Lawmakers from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal and PkMAP did not join the protest because their party leaders oppose the proposal to merge Fata with KP.

Mr Achakzai said at the meeting that Pakhtuns are considered terrorists in Pakistan, but historically they have never been involved in terrorism or aggression against any state.

PkMAP holds meeting in response to a sit-in by parliamentarians and Fata residents

“It is a fact that Pakhtuns have always defended aggression on their land and never accepted the dominance of any nation,” he said.

Senator Sardar Mohammad Azam Khan Musakhel also said the merger of Fata would not be allowed against the will of its residents.

“Unfortunately we have not learnt any lessons from history, although we should remember that we lost a part of Pakistan because of taking decisions against the will of the people. The current trouble and movement for separation going on in Balochistan are because of the same reason, as the state is not ready to put an ear to the demands of the people,” he added.

Mr Musakhel demanded that the government hold a referendum in Fata to see if the people of Fata wish to be merged with KP.

Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar said at the meeting that the state should end injustice against Pakhtuns.

“Pakhtuns are arrested illegally and it has become impossible for Pakhtuns to live and work in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. They have been restricted to their houses, as they are arrested and declared Afghans although they have been living in Pakistan for centuries.

He added: “It is unfortunate that economic doors have been closed on Pakhtuns, because of which the whole community has suffered.”

PkMAP leader Matiullah Musakhel told Dawn that a public meeting in Islamabad has sent decision makers the message that the people of Fata do not want to merge with KP.

“We will use all democratic options to stop the merger. As a first step, we will raise the issue in parliament, and after that, public meetings and protests will be held across the country. As a last resort, we can consider boycotting the general elections and will hold a sit-in in Islamabad,” he said.

In response to a question, he said Pakhtuns have been suffering across Pakistan.

“Around 90,000 CNICs have been blocked across the country, and 99.9pc of them are Pakhtuns. Because of the blockage of CNICs, they cannot do business, open back accounts and admit their children into schools. Now, Pakhtuns are being displaced in Punjab and AJK although they have billions of rupees worth of property in those areas.”

“Pakistan is in a state of war and Pakhtuns have given the most sacrifices for the country. Hundreds of thousands of Pakhtuns were displaced because of the operation against terrorism.”

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2017