ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Saturday threatened to march on Islamabad if the government did not take any positive step towards merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province by tomorrow (Monday).
Speaking at his party’s Fata Youth Convention, Mr Khan said the PTI wanted to see the merger of Fata with KP taking place before the 2018 general elections as further delay in this regard could provide another opportunity to the terrorists to “get hold of the area”.
“If you agree that the merger should take place before the 2018 general elections, then be ready for a call. The PTI is already in practice of street protests. We will bring the people from the tribal areas and the KP to Islamabad as merger is the right of the Fata people,” Mr Khan said, without using the term ‘long march’.
The PTI chief said they would be meeting on Monday (tomorrow) to review the government’s actions in this regard, after which “we will give the call”.
A 10-point declaration was issued at the end of the convention which was also addressed by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and attended by representatives of civil society, including media personnel and lawyers.
The PTI chief issued the threat a day after federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and Planning Commission’s deputy chairman Sartaj Aziz announced that the government would table a bill on reforms in Fata in the National Assembly on Monday.
Mr Baloch had stated that Fata’s merger with KP could take a year or two as the merger was not possible without complete preparations. He had also stated that the government was committed to abolishing the Frontier Crimes Regulation on a priority basis because it denied residents of the tribal region the right to lodge any appeal in any court for change in conviction, the right to legal representation and the right to present reasoned evidence.
However, the PTI chief alleged the rulers did not have the “political will” to “mainstream” the troubled tribal areas due to political compulsions. He accused the government of intentionally delaying the merger process.
Mr Khan hit out at two government allies — Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party president Mehmood Khan Achakzai — for “opposing the merger of Fata with KP”.
“The whole assembly agrees on merger. Only [Maulana] Fazlur Rehman and [Mr] Achakzai are the hurdles,” he said amidst slogans “diesel, diesel” against the JUI-F chief. He regretted that Mr Achakzai was creating hurdles even though “he had nothing to do with the matter”.
The PTI chief said that war-torn Fata needed development and reconstruction which was not possible without its merger with KP. He was of the view that if they failed to merge Fata and KP now then it would only be possible in 2023 and by that time it would be too late.
He also called for holding local government elections in Fata as a first step towards its “mainstreaming”. The tribal areas would have some 33 representatives in the KP assembly after its merger and these representatives would be able to raise their voice for the rights of the tribal people.
The PTI chief declared Fata Secretariat a “den of corruption” and called for its immediate abolition. He alleged that under the present set-up, political agents and bureaucrats were minting money through corruption and smuggling.
Mr Khan said that no one should have any doubt about Fata people’s love for Pakistan. He regretted that some 73 per cent of the tribal people were living below the poverty line.
He lamented the mistreatment of the Fata people in Sindh and Punjab provinces and alleged that some of these tribal people had been killed in police encounters. He also criticised the government move of blocking the identity cards of thousands of Fata people.
He termed the decision of initiating a military action in the area on the “dictation of the US” a big crime. This decision, he said, had pitched the army against its own people.
He said the people of Fata had been trapped between the army and the Taliban due to the military operation.
The declaration issued at the end of the convention urged the federal government to “immediately start” the integration of Fata with KP province as “per the wishes of the people of Fata”.
“The federal government and the provinces must commit resources for initiation of 10-year development plan by allocating three per cent of the federal divisible pool on an annual basis so that Fata could be brought at par with the rest of the country,” said the declaration.
It said that “only the KP government has conveyed its agreement to the federal government to deduct its share of funds for the purpose. The KP chief minister will lead the campaign for persuading the three provinces and the federal government to agree on the three per cent allocation”.
It further said “the FCR should be abolished and all the laws of Pakistan extended in a phased manner under a given timeframe.”
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2017