Crucial KP assembly session on Fata bill tomorrow

Updated May 26, 2018

Email

PESHAWAR: April 01 - An aerial view of the NWFP Assembly House during the election of Chief Minister slot for NWFP. APP photo by Riaz Anjum
PESHAWAR: April 01 - An aerial view of the NWFP Assembly House during the election of Chief Minister slot for NWFP. APP photo by Riaz Anjum

PESHAWAR: An extraordinary session of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly will be held on Sunday, the last working day of the current assembly, to pass the Constitution (Thirty-First Amendment) Bill — also known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Reforms Bill, 2018 — amid threats by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) to disrupt the session.

Officials said that the provincial government had sent a summary to the governor on Friday for summoning a session of the assembly at 2pm on Sunday. The assembly will give its approval to the historic bill that would erase the colonial-era division between tribal areas and the province.

After the provincial assembly’s approval the landmark bill will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six Frontier Regions, to the mainstream and will be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly through the amendment.

A senior official in the assembly secretariat told Dawn that the decision had been taken at the top level to summon a session on Sunday to pass the bill.

“The House is likely to take single item on its agenda that is the Fata Reforms Bill, 2018,” said the official.

After the passage of the bill, the assembly will complete its constitutional tenure of five years on May 28 and will stand dissolved automatically.

Speaker Asad Qaisar has convened a meeting of the parliamentary leaders in Peshawar on Saturday to discuss the agenda for the session.

Pakistan Peoples Party parliamentary leader Muhammad Ali Shah Bacha confirmed that he had received the invitation to the meeting, but expressed ignorance about the agenda.

On the other hand, the JUI-F has warned it will besiege the assembly secretariat on Sunday to sabotage the session. The party plans to bring workers from tribal areas to Peshawar to block the sitting of the assembly.

The JUI-F has been opposing the bill and demanding a referendum to seek assent of tribal people before Fata’s merger with KP.

“We will go to any extent to disrupt the assembly session,” Mufti Ijaz, JUI-F’s general secretary for Fata chapter, told

Dawn here on Friday. He said that party workers from Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would take part in the protest rally.

“The passage of the bill in such a haste shows that the issue is a foreign agenda and not a national agenda,” he said.

Tabling the Constitution (Thirty-First Amendment) Bill in the KP Assembly is a constitutional requirement. As per Article 239(4) of the Constitution, the President cannot assent a constitutional amendment bill which affects geographical boundaries of a province without approval by the assembly of that province.

Article 239(4) of the Constitution reads, “A bill to amend the Constitution which would have the effect of altering the limits of a province shall not be presented to the president for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly of that province by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership.”

After approval from the provincial assembly the bill will be referred to President Mamnoon Hussain for his assent.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA-elect Baldev Kumar is likely to take the oath on the same day. Mr Kumar, a prime suspect in the murder case of minority MPA Sardar Soran Singh in 2016, was acquitted by the antiterrorism court in Buner on April 26.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018