KHYBER: Scores of tribesmen of Khyber, mostly elders, observed May 31, the fourth anniversary of merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a ‘black day’ in Jamrud here on Tuesday.

Fata Qaumi Jirga (FQJ), an organisation of anti-merger elements, arranged the event at Bab-i-Khyber where the participants displayed placards inscribed with anti-merger slogans. They also blocked the main road briefly but remained peaceful.

Speaking on the occasion, FQJ chairman Malik Bismillah Khan Afridi said that the so-called merger was imposed on the people of erstwhile Fata against their will and they would never accept such an unnatural process of merger which had deprived them of the time-tested customs and traditions.

Demanding reversal of the 25th Constitutional Amendment, he also called for revival and strengthening of the traditional tribal jirga system and said the so-called merger had not provided any relief to the impoverished tribesmen.

Malik Bismillah Khan alleged that the tehsil municipal authorities were now collecting different taxes from the militancy-affected tribesmen despite repeated official assurances about exempting tribal areas from all types of taxes for 10 years.

“We will start an agitation if these taxes were not withdrawn forthwith,” he warned and added that the federal and provincial governments should release the promised development funds for uplift of the region.

He demanded that all TMAs, food department and National Logistic Cell should be asked to stop collecting illegal taxes.

Malik Salahuddin, another tribal elder, said on the occasion that FQJ had already challenged the merger of tribal areas in the Supreme Court and hoped for a favourable verdict.

He demanded of the federal government to open all trade routes with Afghanistan to promote business and generate employment opportunities for the local youth.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2022

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