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FATA merger: Jamaat-e-Islami gives Government deadline

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The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the parliamentarians from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have on Sunday warned of staging sit-in in the federal capital if the government failed to merge FATA with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) has expressed support for the demand of JI and parliamentarians, who gave December 31st as the deadline to the government, pertaining to tribal areas merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). On the other hand, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Moulana Fazlur Rehman said that a referendum should be conducted in the tribal areas to decide the future status of FATA.

The FATA-KPK merger seems to be engulfed in political wrangling between the PTI led KPK government and its staunchest opponents in the Pushtun belt, the JUI & PKMAP.

The JUI chief’s demands seem to be in line with a December 2016 declaration of a FATA grand alliance consisting of at least 200 elders from all seven agencies and Frontier Regions. The Grand Alliance insisted on holding a referendum on the fate of tribal areas, maintaining that they would oppose the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. They also stated to “never compromise on the Jirga system”

Read more: Delay in FATA reforms could waste all counterterrorism successes

Referendum should be conducted on whether the people of tribal areas wanted a merger with KP or a separate province, he added. The PPP, JI and FATA parliamentarians were of the view that the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) should be abolished and the tribal areas should be merged in with KP.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had reiterated that the merger of tribal areas issue would be resolved sooner adding certain political elements were trying to politicize the matter for their personal gains.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Moulana Fazlur Rehman said that a referendum should be conducted in the tribal areas to decide the future status of FATA.

The delay in the merger is causing unrest in the region, but the stakeholders have remained unsuccessful in developing consensus on the issue and the matter is lingering on since March when FATA Reforms Package was approved by the cabinet and then PM Nawaz Sharif. Opposition parties repeatedly staged a walkout of the National Assembly session for dropping out of FATA Reforms Bill from the agenda and made it clear that till the tabling of the bill in the National Assembly they would continue their boycott.

The PML-N itself is highly conscious of the fallout of the FATA decision. A PML-N legislator claimed that the government has already decided to reject Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s opposition to FATA reforms. Fazl’s JUI-F and Achakzai’s PKMAP are government allies that oppose immediate merger of tribal areas with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

Read more: Will FATA finally merge in KPK?

“Achakzai’s party has nil presence in the K-P Assembly. Both Achakzai and Fazl parties have a small presence in Parliament.  The views of a tiny minority should not be allowed to influence the will of an overwhelming majority,” said the legislator.

A PML-N legislator claimed that the government has already decided to reject Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s opposition to FATA reforms.

Earlier on Monday, the opposition parties resorted to strong protest in the National Assembly after the government withdrew its decision to table the FATA Reforms bill in the House for debate. The reforms plan recommends electing parliamentarians from FATA to the KP assembly during the 2018 election, thus, enacting the merger with KP in the duration of a year. Additionally, it calls for mainstreaming the region “after five years” but does not shift control to the KPK government for the time.

Additional benefits of the FATA-KPK merger are the economic and social uplift of the area, which has long been marginalized. Additionally, the specter of terrorism which has caught FATA by the throat since the American invasion of Afghanistan can be properly addressed.

Read more: FATA reforms delay leading to political acrimony

The abolition of the FCR and merger of FATA with KPK seems to be the most popular option for FATA’s future. According to a study published by FATA Research Centre titled “Governance Reforms in FATA: People’s Perspective”, 68% population of FATA is for the abolition of FCR, and 74% endorsed the option of the merger with KPK.

The FATA Reforms bill had earlier been made part of the agenda but later it was pulled off, which according to the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, happened because further consultation was required on the bill.

However, the FATA-KPK merger seems to be engulfed in political wrangling between the PTI led KPK government and its staunchest opponents in the Pushtun belt, the JUI & PKMAP. Observers assert that both JUI and PKMAP fear of losing of electoral power if FATA combines with KPK as well as the credit of the merger going to their nemesis, PTI.


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