The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly on Sunday approved the KP-Fata merger bill, paving way for the merger of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) with the province.
The bill was passed with two-thirds majority — a Constitutional prerequisite for the proposed merger. As many as 92 lawmakers voted in favour while seven MPAs used their votes against the bill.
Following the provincial assembly’s approval, the landmark bill will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six Frontier Regions, to the mainstream and they will be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly through the amendment.
KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, while speaking in the assembly, asked the opponents of the bill to unite with those in favour. He said that the local bodies elections will be held in Fata this year, whereas the general elections will be held next year.
"During a meeting of the Fata Reforms Committee, Chief of Army Staff Gen Javed Qamar Bajwa had asked me to settle the issue of Fata once and for all," he told fellow lawmakers.
The chief minister made it clear that Shariah Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (SNAR) would not be touched under the bill.
Assembly in session
Speaker Asad Qaiser presided over the session which started late due to protests outside the assembly.
KP Law Minister Imtiaz Shahid tabled the bill seeking a merger of Fata with the province in the assembly amid ruckus as the lawmakers associated with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) as well as disgruntled PTI members chanted slogans to register their protests.
The JUI-F has been opposing the bill and demanding a referendum to seek assent of tribal people before Fata’s merger with KP.
Earlier, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Baldev Kumar, who was acquitted by an anti-terrorism court in Buner in April in the 2016 murder of Soran Singh — took oath as member of the provincial assembly at the start of the session.
Even though the bill had been passed by both houses of the parliament, Article 239(4) of the Constitution says that the president cannot assent a constitutional amendment bill which affects geographical boundaries of a province without approval by the assembly of that province.
The session today — being held just a day before the assembly's dissolution on the completion of its five-year term — was thus convened only to give its approval to the historic bill that would erase the colonial-era division between tribal areas and the province.
Protest against merger
Party workers, including those from Fata, had gathered outside the KP assembly since early morning and had threatened to put padlocks on the assembly gates so that no one could make it inside the premises for the session that was scheduled for 2pm.
After hours of negotiations and resorting to baton-charge, police had managed to control the workers and clear them from the entrance to the assembly building. The protest, however, is continuing outside, according to DawnNewsTV.
"We will not let the Fata merger bill be approved," the protesters had chanted as they started burning tires on the road leading to the assembly.
District administration and the police had persistently tried to convince the protesters to vacate the area in front of the main entrance and continue their protest outside the back gate of the assembly.
According to reports, the protesters pelted policemen and media vehicles with stones. Windows of a DawnNewsTV mobile were also broken. Police resorted to tear gas shelling and baton-charge to control the crowd.