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PTI slams Fata bill, says it’s ‘insufficient’

Updated January 14, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: While the country’s leading political parties and representatives from tribal areas are welcoming the passage of the bill seeking extension of the jurisdiction of superior courts to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is “criticising” the move.

Hours after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi “greeted” the whole nation, especially the Fata people, over the passage of the Supreme Court and High Court (extension of jurisdiction to Fata) Bill 2017 from the National Assembly, the PTI’s central media wing issued a statement on Saturday evening, saying the party leaders at a meeting of their core group had “criticised the approval of the federal government’s bill to extend jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to Fata terming it insufficient.”

In their meeting presided over by party chairman Imran Khan the PTI leaders discussed in detail the proposed merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and demanded that the Fata Reforms Package should be implemented wholly.

Warning the government, the PTI said that further denial of Fata people’s rights would “compel” the party to resist and retaliate “to get our justified demands fulfilled”.

Legislators belonging to party voted for bill in National Assembly

The National Assembly on Friday passed the legislation that would extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to Fata — a longstanding demand of the people of the tribal region.

Though opposed by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the bill was unanimously passed by the rest of the lower house of parliament. The bill will now be sent to the Senate where it will become an act of parliament after its approval by its members.

Following the adoption of the bill, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah congratulated the NA speaker and the lower house, terming the bill a landmark legislation. Similarly, MNAs hailing from Fata expressed their gratitude to the house for passing the legislation.

Interestingly, though the PTI had also voted for the bill, no one from the party spoke on the floor of the house and its members kept their speeches confined to the Kasur incident.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi through a special message on Saturday felicitated the nation on passage of the bill, saying the extension of jurisdiction of superior courts to Fata would be a first step with regard to reforms in the tribal areas.

“Its passage by the National Assembly is a historic measure for tribesmen and it can also help repeal the decades-old FCR.

The prime minister also congratulated the people of Fata, and observed that it was a day of great omen as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had secured their rights which had been denied in the last 70 years. “The passage of the bill will also enable the tribesmen to enter the national mainstream and further strengthen Pakistan,” he concluded.

In her statement, PPP’s central information secretary, Dr Nafisa Shah, congratulated the opposition parties for leading the movement that led to the passage of the Fata bill in the National Assembly.

Dr Shah termed the law a “milestone” and a step towards the eventual merger of Fata with KP. She said it was the vision of the party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to “mainstream Fata” with the rest of the country and had he lived, Fata reforms would have been completed long ago.

She said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had a firm commitment to stand with the people of Fata until complete merger with KP was achieved, including the financial and administrative measures required.

She claimed that it was former president Asif Zardari who had begun the mainstreaming process with a series of wide-ranging consultations with stakeholders that led to the extension of Political Parties Act, which in turn allowed the parties to work in Fata as a result of which 2013 elections in Fata were contested on party basis for the first time.

Meanwhile, in their meeting the PTI leadership extended its full support to the protest of Pakistan Awami Tehreek on January 17 and directed the regional presidents to make preparations in this regard.

The PTI leaders also decided to take Hudaibya Paper Mills case against the Sharif family “to its logical end”. They said that turning a blind eye to massive corruption and money laundering of billions was out of the question. “If the National Accountability Bureau does not take action, PTI will pursue the case,” an announcement said.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2018