Ruckus in NA as FATA reforms bill dropped off agenda


–Government drops bill from agenda at the last moment

–FATA, Opposition lawmakers tear copies of the changed agenda 

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly witnessed another day of a ruckus on Monday as the opposition and lawmakers belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) protested the removal of FATA reforms bill from the house’s agenda.

The bill pertaining to the reforms in the country’s tribals areas aims at the abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and integration of the tribal region into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The disorder and walkouts that had ensued also disrupted the proceedings of the house, leading to the adjournment of the session.

Once the opposition parties staged the walkout, the proceedings were adjourned due to the lack of quorum in the house. MNA Amjad Khan Niazi pointed out the quorum as well, before leaving the house which led to the adjournment of the session.

Following the last-minute removal of the bill from the agenda items, the protesting parliamentarians chanted “go FCR go” slogans along with anti-government slogans.

In an attempt to pacify the situation, SAFRON Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the bill was postponed as there were some technical errors that needed to be reviewed. However, his pacifications fell on deaf ears and the unruly protest continued.

Shahabuddin Khan, a ruling party MNA from Bajaur Agency, raised the issue soon after question-hour while speaking on a point of order.

“The bill was on the agenda previously, but why it is not there today (Monday),” the MNA wondered.

The MNA also discredited the agenda of the day, saying it was someone else’s agenda, as in the “actual agenda the bill was there till this (Monday) morning”.

Shahabuddin Khan joining the protest said the house could not be run in this manner.

A member of the assembly belonging to FATA, Shah Gul Afridi, said, “The government does not think of us [FATA residents] as the citizens of the country; otherwise, they would have given us our due rights.”

Speaking out of his turn, the MNA argued if we were being seen as traitors then the government can simply ask us to leave.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker Khursheed Shah also put his two cents in, and demanded the government to clarify the matter that why the bill was removed at the last minute.

“A federal minister himself had announced that the bill would be on the agenda,” he said, adding that “removal of the bill was a breach of [parliamentarians] trust and a testimony of how much the government valued the empowerment of the people of FATA.”

“I had already said that the government will not get the bill passed from the house,” he said, adding that it was ridiculous to remove the bill from agenda at the last minute.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Shah Mahmood Qureshi questioned the motives of the government, remarking that “does the government have any idea of the consequences for not giving the due rights to the tribal community”. He said such indifferent attitude could push the country towards chaos.

“Will the minister [responsbile for this bill] spell out the reasons for which the bill has been dropped from the agenda,” he questioned.

As opposition leaders Khurshid Shah and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were speaking, the PTI and FATA parliamentarians encircled the speaker’s chair, started raising slogans, and tore down the copies of the agenda.

The ruling party’s lawmaker, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad, said that further consultation is required to table the FATA reforms bill. He said that the federal government will table the bill in the near future after necessary discussions.

PML-N sources meanwhile told Pakistan Today that the bill was dropped from the agenda following strong protests by its allies, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) head Fazlur Rehman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Achakzai.

Both Achakzai and Fazl have been opposing the decision for various reasons: Fazl wants a referendum over the merger of FATA with KP, while Achakzai wants FATA to have an independent status.

It is not for the first time that the PML-N government has postponed the FATA reforms bill. Despite protests from FATA and opposition parliamentarians, the federal government has been reluctant to table the bill for the past six months, which was framed by Sartaj Aziz-led committee, the then-PM’s adviser on Foreign Affairs.