Opp parties walkout from NA over persistent delay in FATA Reforms Bill

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ISLAMABAD: Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout from the National Assembly for the ninth consecutive session on Thursday after a bill on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) reforms was absent from the agenda once again.

On Tuesday, after the opposition registered its protest over the government’s inability to table the FATA reforms bill, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had assured parliamentarians that the bill would be presented in the Lower House on Wednesday.

Despite the speaker’s assurance, however, the bill was not presented in the Assembly on Wednesday which sparked protests and a walkout by the opposition.

Hours after Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch annou­nced in parliament that the government intended to introduce “Supreme Court and High Court (Extension of Jurisdiction to FATA) Bill 2017 in the National Assembly on Thursday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) jirga council members regarding the FATA reforms for the first time.

The meeting between the premier and the JUI-F members did not produce any fruitful results and a member of the council declared that the party’s reservations over the reforms remained.

On Thursday, the legislation was missing from the agenda yet again, prompting a strong protest from the opposition leaders who staged a walkout from the Lower House.

On Wednesday, PPP leader Naveed Qamar asserted that the opposition would continue to stage protests and walkouts until the government agreed to debate the FATA reforms bill in the assembly.

The FATA reforms bill, that was part of the National Action Plan of 2015, include mainstreaming the tribal region by extending the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to the area, repealing of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) of 1901, as well as its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

SAFRON Minister Baloch had on Dec 8 said that the government was planning to repeal the FCR within a week’s time.

FATA is still ruled under the British-made FCR of 1901, which violates the fundamental rights of the tribal people. The law states that three basic rights are not applicable to FATA residents: appeal, wakeel and daleel.