PESHAWAR: Amid cheers and slogans from the visitors’ galleries, 19 newly-elected legislators from the merged districts of defunct Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were sworn in to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday.
The journey for the merger of erstwhile Fata -- started in November 2015 -- finally reached its logical conclusion with the representation of over five million people of tribal districts in the provincial assembly.
It would be pertinent to recall that the previous government of PML-N had constituted a six-member committee, headed by adviser to prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, which presented a set of recommendations for the mainstreaming of tribal belt, abutting Afghanistan.
One of the recommendations of the committee was the merger of tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
19 MPAs sworn in; CM says tribal people to liberate India-held Kashmir
Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani administered oath to the lawmakers, who were elected in the polls held on July 20. Lawmakers of the ruling PTI, PML-N, ANP, Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-F and Balochistan Awami Party took oath.
Two women MPAs and one MPA representing religious minorities also took oath.
Nevertheless, nomination of two women lawmakers on reserved seats is still under process. Election Commission of Pakistan has allocated one seat each to PTI and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).
“We are now starting a new journey and people of the merged districts have pinned great hopes on their representatives,” remarked Speaker Mushtaq Ghani while congratulating the newly-elected MPAs. It is a memorable day in the history of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa legislature and all the political forces played an appreciable role in mainstreaming of tribal areas.
A needless hullaballoo was also witnessed in the session as jubilant supporters of the MPAs started shouting slogans from the visitors’ gallery, eulogising their leaders and parties. This prompted the speaker to warn them of adjourning the session and expelling them from the assembly, but to no avail.
The joint opposition also staged walkout in reaction to the Speaker’s decision of not giving the floor to ANP parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak. On the directives of speaker, Chief Whip Qalandar Khan Lodhi and Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai went to the opposition lobby and brought the protesting members back to the sitting.
Welcoming the newly-elected lawmakers, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan termed the day as epoch-making for the people of the province, especially merged districts.
“Let the visitors celebrate this occasion,” Mahmood Khan addressed the chair on a lighter note. The credit, he said, went to the government and the opposition for passing 25th Amendment, which paved way for the merger of the former Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Elections in the tribal districts [which ensured representation of Fata people in provincial assembly] is one of the major steps for the completion of the merger process,” he maintained.
The chief minister said that tribal people rendered remarkable sacrifices for the country and defended the country’s western border. He said that tribal people had liberated Azad Jammu and Kashmir and would liberate the India-held Kashmir as well.
He said that government would not do politics on the issue of merged districts. He said that people of tribal districts showed confidence in PTI. “The victory of PTI in tribal districts shows that we are not selected but elected ones,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani said that militancy caused widespread destruction in the tribal belt, killing thousands of people besides causing displacement of millions of people.
Referring to the fully-damaged infrastructure in tribal districts, he urged the government to allocate funds 10 times more than the settled districts. “Election in tribal districts is beginning of a long journey and the government should treat constituencies of the newly-elected MPAs irrespective of their political affiliations,” he said.
Parliamentary leaders and newly-elected MPAs also spoke on the occasion, urging the government to take concrete steps to end deprivations of the people of merged districts. The sitting was adjourned till 10.30am Wednesday (today).
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019