ISLAMABAD: Finally after a year-long debate in the parliament on much-awaited merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the government on Wednesday passed the buck to the next government on the decision regarding the controversial issue.

It is believed that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) made this decision apparently to avoid annoyance of its two allies — Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) — when general elections are just around the corner. JUI-F emir Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP president Mehmood Khan Achakzai have been strongly opposing the merger plan on the pretext that it is against the will of Fata people. On the other hand, major opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — are in favour of the merger.

Minister for States and Frontier Region (Safron) retd Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch told the National Assembly on Wednesday that the coming government would execute the merger of tribal areas with KP.

“No legislation is being made in this regard and the present status of Fata will remain intact,” he added.

It has also been learnt that if the merger is carried out before the expiry of the tenure of the PML-N government (before May 31), it will create complications as delimitation of KP Assembly’s constituencies comprising tribal areas will have to be done within the remaining 15 days, which is impossible.

Zafarullah Jamali resigns from NA seat while criticising PML-N govt

The Safron minister said the government had almost implemented most of the decisions on Fata reforms and extended the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to tribal areas.

The government had allocated Rs100 billion for development of Fata under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, he said, adding that a law was being introduced to increase KP Assembly seats to absorb tribal areas in the province. Presently Fata has 12 National Assembly seats which are said to be double in number as compared to the quota fixed for the entire country on the basis of population.

The minister said according to new law of allocation of seats, the elections on KP Assembly seats for tribal areas could be held next year.

Opposing the merger plan, Maulana Fazl said the merger of tribal areas with KP was “part of a foreign agenda”. “A representative of United Nation told me that Fata reforms were part of a UN agenda,” he added.

He said the government had backed out on its promises on Fata and was not considering the will and opinion of tribal people on the merger plan.

The JUI-F chief said the Fata issue came under the ministry of Safron but it had been referred to the ministry of law and justice for finalising the reforms plan.

Zafarullah Jamali resigns

One of the significant features of the NA session on Wednesday was resignation of former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali from his lower house seat.

Mr Jamali, hailing from Balochistan’s Jaffarabad district, said if the prime minister and the opposition leader were unhappy with the performance of the National Accountability Bureau chairman, they should resign first as the NAB chief had been appointed with their mutual consultation.

He also criticised the federal government over its failure to allocate adequate resources for Balochistan in the federal budget.

Mr Jamali, who had served as prime minister from 2002 to 2004 during President retd Gen Pervez Musharraf’s tenure, is presently associated with the PML-N.

During the session, lawmakers from the PPP, the PTI, the PML-Q, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Awami National Party decided not to submit cut motions on the budget, against a tradition of opposition parties.

Reiterating the opposition parties’ stance, PTI MNA Dr Shireen Mazari said presentation of a full year’s budget by a government which was completing its tenure in a few weeks was unacceptable.

Dr Arif Alvi, another PTI leader, pointed out the quorum and the session was adjourned till Thursday morning.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2018

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