Govt fails to table FATA merger bill in NA


—PML-N’s allies JUI-F and PkMAP are strongly opposed to FATA’s merger with KP while PTI and PPP have thrown their weight behind legislation

 ISLAMABAD: The ruling alliance failed to table the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Reforms Bill proposing the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the National Assembly (NA) on Friday.

On Thursday, the federal cabinet had approved moving the 30th Amendment Bill, reiterating the promise made by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that the government intended to “take reforms to its logical conclusion during the current tenure of assemblies”.

It was stated that the bill would come into effect one year after its passage.

It was also reported that the bill would also ensure the holding of local government elections in the tribal areas in October 2019. They said that over 100 laws would become applicable to FATA after the passage of the bill.

Both the houses of the parliament have already passed a legislation to extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (SC) and Peshawar High Court (PHC) to FATA.

Earlier, PM Abbasi had advised Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarians and their allies to attend the session on Friday, so the treasury benches would have an adequate number to ensure the bill’s passing.

The federal government said an amendment to the constitution would be required and a two-thirds majority needed to get the bill passed. They, however, said that with two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — supporting the merger, there was a possibility that the bill would be passed by the assembly, if not on Friday, then in the next few days.

According to sources, in a recently held cabinet meeting headed by the prime minister, several cabinet members expressed concern that the failure of the incumbent government to push the merger plans forward would strengthen the PPP and PTI who could easily take political advantage of the situation. The sources added that in the face of opposition from its allies, the ruling party and the prime minister was also considering bringing a presidential order, and not ordinance, to ensure that the merger took place before the expiry of the government’s term.

The much-hyped bill had been staunchly opposed by PML-N’s two strongest allies, including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) of Fazlur Rahman and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

Fazl also came down hard on the government in NA and termed the merger of FATA with KP ‘a global conspiracy’.

Recently, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) also joined JUI-F and PkMAP and called for a referendum in the tribal areas before any decision in connection with the merger was finalised.

The seats for the KP assembly would increase to 147 from the current 126 after its merger with FATA, according to the proposed 30th Amendment of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Minister of States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch informed the house that the reforms package proposed for FATA would include infrastructure development, access to courts, deployment of Frontier Constabulary in the region, and allocation of 3 per cent share from the federal divisible pool in the National Finance Commission.

In addition, the amount of Rs 100 billion would also be given to FATA annually and the funds would continue to be dispersed in the tribal areas for at least one years.