Bill to increase NA seats for ex-Fata likely after political consensus: speaker

Published October 7, 2021
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser speaks to the media in this file photo. — APP
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser speaks to the media in this file photo. — APP

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has said that a new legislation to increase the number of seats in the assembly for the merged districts of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) will be introduced in parliament after a political consensus on the issue.

The speaker was presiding over a meeting of parliamentary committee on development of former Fata areas here on Wednesday, according to an official handout issued by the National Assembly Secretariat.

The parliamentary committee, which met for the second consecutive day, had invited representatives of the ex-Fata and the members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly as special invitees. The purpose of the meeting was to make recommendations for the development of ex-Fata region.

During the meeting, a number of participants called for allocation of seats for the ex-Fata region which was merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after the passage of the 25th Constitution Amendment in May 2018.

Says region needs special attention after recent developments in Afghanistan

As a result of the merger, the existing 12 seats of the region would be abolished in the National Assembly that would emerge after the next general elections.

However, there has been a constant demand from representatives of ex-Fata region to retain these seats by increasing the seats allocation for KP province. In this regard, independent MNA Mohsin Dawar had also introduced a constitution amendment which was passed by the present National Assembly in 2019, but it could not be approved by the Senate.

During the Wednesday’s meeting, the members of parliament again stressed the need for re-introducing the constitution amendment bill so that the seats of the ex-Fata region could be retained in the next National Assembly.

The participants also called for allocating three per cent share for the ex-tribal region in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award as per the agreement that reached among the political parties while announcing the plan for the merger of the tribal area with KP.

During the meeting, Speaker Asad Qaiser said the development in ex-Fata would ensure prosperity for the common people of former tribal areas. He, however, said changing environment of ex-Fata region was interlinked with a political consensus. He said opinions of all stakeholders were required to bring Fata out of challenges after its merger with KP, adding that a national support was compulsory for provision of fundamental necessities to the people of ex-Fata.

The speaker was of the view that ex-Fata needed special consideration in the context of changing situation in Afghanistan.

Mr Qaiser assured the provincial representatives that they would continue to make efforts to make the region prosperous. He also briefed the participants on three working groups which had been constituted by the special parliamentary committee.

Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said political consensus and political input were imperative to resolve the issues of NFC Award and allocation of seats in the National Assembly for ex-Fata. For this purpose, he said there was a need to take Sindh and Balochistan on board.

Senator Ayub Afridi called for allocation of more funds for provision of basic health and education facilities to the people of the tribal region.

MNA from Swat Dr Haider Ali and Jawad Hussain from Orakzai called for increasing federal cooperation for release of three per cent NFC share for the tribal region which, according to them, is the right of the people and necessary for the development of the region.

MPA Naeema Ishrat drew the attention of the participants towards the stalled bill in the Senate regarding allocation of NA seats for ex-Fata. She also objected to the methodology adopted in ex-Fata while conducting population census in 2018.

MNA from Bajaur Gul Dad Khan said ex-Fata had faced negative effects of turmoil in Afghanistan, adding that the situation in the region would have an effect on the overall development of the country. He also called for retaining the existing 12 seats of ex-Fata in the National Assembly. Besides this, he also called for maintaining the special quota system for the tribal people.

MNA Iqbal Khan from Khyber Agency said that tribes were facing issues in land record matters and stressed the need for introducing land record reforms at the earliest. He was of the view that functioning of a judicial system was imperative for maintaining peace in the region.

Naeema Kishwar regretted that not even a single female education or health centre had been initiated in the region.

MNA Jamaluddin from South Waziristan said the benefits of the merger of ex-Fata into KP were not visible to the people.

MPA Maulana Salahudin said they were expecting that the merger would bring peace to the region, but so far it was still a distant dream.

On the demand of the members for construction of roads, schools and health facilities, the NA speaker asked them to present these issues in writing so that the committee could pursue these matters.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2021

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