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ISLAMABAD: In what may annoy two key allies of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the controversial Fata merger bill is set to be introduced in the National Assembly on Friday (today).

Informed sources told Dawn that the federal cabinet, which met here on Thursday with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the chair, approved placement before the National Assembly of the Fata reforms bill proposing the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They said the bill would come into effect one year after its passage.

The sources said that since the National Assembly was to be prorogued on Friday, an attempt would be made to introduce and get it passed the same day.

Approval given by PM at cabinet meeting; attempt will be made to introduce and get the bill passed same day

They said an amendment to the Constitution would be required and a two-thirds majority needed to get the bill passed. They, however, said that with two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Peoples Party — supporting the merger of Fata with KP, there was a possibility that the bill would be passed by the assembly, if not on Friday, then in the next few days.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai are the only two political parties that oppose the merger plan.

The sources said that besides seeking allocation of sets for Fata in the KP Assembly with prospective effect, the bill would also provide for the local government elections in the tribal areas in October 2019. They said that over 100 laws would become applicable to Fata after the passage of the bill.

Both the houses of the parliament have already passed a legislation to extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to Fata.

A high-powered National Imple­mentation Committee (NIC) on Fata headed by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had in December last year endorsed the merger plan.

The committee had also agreed to elect 23 members to the KP Assembly in the general elections scheduled for July 2018 — something the delays caused by the opposition to the merger plan by the JUI-F and PkMAP made impossible as the delimitation exercise has already been completed by the Election Commission and any such decision at the last minute would simply mean delay in the holding of polls.

Another key decision taken by the NIC was to combine the office of Fata additional chief secretary with the proposed chief operating officer to allow for unity of command.

The plan firmed up through due consultations between the KP government and the 11 Corps — being the major stakeholders in the light of the cabinet decisions on Fata reforms — provides for the full merger of Fata with KP by addressing many legislative and constitutional issues involving the merger and the administrative, security and development systems required to be put in place with timeline and the resources needed to implement the full spectrum of the reforms package.

Meanwhile, the cabinet also approved an amendment to the policy of commercial import of arms and ammunition, placement of the National Disaster Management Authority under the Prime Minister Office, signing of an agreement on technical cooperation between Pakistan and Brazil, a memorandum of understanding between the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission and Territory and Vocational Education Commission of Sri Lanka and amendments to sections 5 and 6 of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002, as amended vide Pemra (Amendment) Act, 2007.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2018