ISLAMABAD: Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai on Thursday proposed on the floor of the National Assembly that a “judicial council-like body” comprising judges, generals and diplomats should be formed to decide the future set-up for Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) which should be democratic and as per the aspirations of tribal people.
Reacting on the criticism directed at him and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman by some members for their opposition to the plan of merging Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr Achakzai said the president should announce abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR).
Warning against the planned merger of tribal areas with the province, the PkMAP leader from Balochistan suggested that Fata should be governed either by a governor or a council to be elected through adult franchise.
The PkMAP chief was of the view that the present parliament had no role in Fata’s affairs. “I am giving you a solution. Have fear of God. I will not abuse anyone. Please, do not abuse us,” he implored while joining his hands before taking his seat.
Opposition continues its boycott of NA proceedings
On the other hand, the opposition members continued their boycott of the assembly’s proceedings for the fourth consecutive day over the government’s move to withdraw the bill seeking to extend the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court and Supreme Court to Fata from the assembly agenda at the eleventh hour on Monday. However, they failed to disrupt the proceedings of the house when their efforts to point of lack of quorum failed twice.
Declaring the house in order after a headcount, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi intelligently continued the proceedings of the house for more than an hour after the opposition members’ walkout and almost carried out the complete agenda.
However, the assembly failed to take up questions as the members consumed first hour of the proceedings in discussing the issues of Fata reforms and problems of the wheat growers through points of order.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) MNA Muhammad Ali Khan interrupted Mr Achakzai’s speech on a number of occasions through his noisy protest against the latter’s stance over Fata reforms.
“I am a Pakistani citizen. It is my democratic right to support or oppose something,” Mr Achakzai said after Awami Muslim League president Sheikh Rashid Ahmed accused the government of delaying Fata reforms only because of opposition from “two persons”.
The PkMAP chief warned that any change in the present set-up in Fata could create “trouble” for Pakistan. He said Fata had not been a part of Pakistan according to the Independence Act of 1947.
Giving a historical background, he mentioned a number of agreements signed by then British rulers and tribal elders before partition of the subcontinent, mentioning Fata residents as “free people”.
He was of the view that it was a “sensitive issue” and Afghanistan could raise objections over any move to change the Fata’s status. “If we commit any mistake here, our armed forces will be trapped here,” he said without elaborating, adding that already on a daily basis they had been receiving reports about attacks on troops in the tribal areas. He said a delegation of the tribal people had met the army chief recently and told him that no step should be taken against their wishes.
In response to Mr Achakzai’s speech, Leader of the Opposition in the house Syed Khursheed Shah said that all the acts and agreements signed during the British rule had become redundant.
“We do not accept India and Afghanistan theories. We are not bound to abide by any decision made by the British,” he said. He said that 95 per cent people of Fata “wanted accession to Pakistan”.
He said the tribal people wanted that they should have the right to appeal before the high court and the Supreme Court and this was their democratic right.
Mr Shah said the opposition would not allow the government to use the parliament as a rubber stamp.
Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Sherpao said that it was time to take practical steps instead of wasting time in debate which had already taken place many times in the past. He said that under Article 1 of the Constitution, Fata was a part of Pakistan. He urged the government to announce merger of Fata with KP as soon as possible and “before the time ran out”.
Mr Sherpao said the PML-N government should take credit for “this historical work” and should not wait to do it “under pressure”.
Earlier, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Naveed Qamar said the government had been indicating to them that the army was perhaps against the planned Fata reforms. He said the government now had no excuse in this regard after the army chief had himself made a statement that he also supported reforms in tribal areas.
Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch said the government was determined to implement Fata reforms and it would not allow anyone to “snatch” the credit for it.
“There is no question of going back on Fata reforms,” he said, adding that the prime minister had already convened a meeting of the parliamentary leaders on the issue on Friday and hopefully the issue would be resolved soon.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017