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Monday, April 15, 2024

Army will support mainstreaming of FATA, says Gen Bajwa

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, during his visit to South Waziristan Agency on Sunday, said that military will continue its support to Government’s efforts of mainstreaming Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).

While visiting the areas where repatriation of displaced families is taking place Gen Bajwa said, “Pakistan Army will continue its efforts while also supporting mainstreaming of FATA by the government as per aspirations of the local tribes.”

Read more: Should FATA merge with KP or become an independent province?

Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor quoted General Bajwa as

What is meant by “Mainstreaming of FATA”? 

However the emphasis on word “mainstreaming” is now getting extremely confusing. Is Pakistan Army supporting the integration of FATA with KP as recommended by the “Sartaj Aziz Committee” set up by the PM or Army is supporting Maulana Fazal ur Rehman of JUI(F) that is now using the word “mainstreaming”.

Maulana, Chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), has emerged as the most vocal opponent of FATA’s merger with KP, however now in a recent statement he has said that he is not against the mainstreaming of FATA. He said that words “merger of FATA” have been replaced with “mainstreaming of FATA” in a revised summary that would be presented for the approval in next cabinet meeting.

Sartaj Aziz Committee & its composition 

All this debate now suddenly happening smacks of politics. Because even the Committee set up by PM under Sartaj Aziz in Nov 2015 was to examine how FATA can be mainstreamed. This committee had an impressive mix of government politics and technocrats. Under Sartaj Aziz, it included Gen. Qadir Baluch, Gen. Naser Janjua (NSA & Adviser to PM), Zafar Ali Jhagra (top PMLN leader) and Shehzad Arbab. Arbab is considered one of the finest civil servant in the country who has served as Chief Secretary AJK and KP and had to leave because of differences with the CM KP. Arbab is now Secretary SAFRON to the government of Pakistan.

Recommendations of Sartaj Aziz Committee? 

Sartaj Aziz committee spent several months of meetings, open public interactions and deliberations. It examined several options that could be employed to mainstreaming of FATA and reached this conclusion that the best, quickest and most effective method will be to integrate FATA with KP; because almost all towns of FATA agencies are already linked with KP towns in terms of logistics and integration. FATA agencies are also located geographically on the edge of province of KP and are thus not vertically integrated with each other.

Mysterious Delays in Cabinet? 

Cabinet had to take up the recommendations of Sartaj Aziz Committee in December 2016, but could not do that apparently due to Maulana’s strong opposition. Maulana is a close ally of PM Nawaz Sharif and a bitter opponent of PTI and Imran Khan. FATA’s merger with KP was again on Cabinet agenda in the first week of Feb, but then suddenly it was dropped. KP government on the other hand has already initiated the process to undertake the merger.

Maulana is repeatedly saying: “Let the people of Fata decide whether they want a separate province for themselves or want merger with KP.”

Read more: Should FATA merge with KP or become an independent province?

Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Chief JUI-F and Mehmood Khan Achakzai, chief of The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), bitterly criticized the report of the committee headed by Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs by saying that committee’s mandate was not to recommend merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He called the merger of FATA with the KP as a foreign agenda.

He further added, “There is no possibility of merger of Fata with KP in the new draft. According to the summary of the draft, the tribesmen would decide their own fate and the future status of their areas.”