–Khawaja Asif says people of erstwhile FATA should be granted special privileges right away
–Defence Minister Khattak says decision to merge FATA with KP should have happened 70 years ago
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) on Friday began a debate on the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill that seeks an increase in the number of seats for the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the National Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
The bill was tabled in the House on Thursday by independent MNA Mohsin Dawar, however it could not be passed as the opposition refused to vote for it without thorough debate and even sought some amendments to it.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) this week issued a schedule for polling in FATA on 16 KP Assembly seats on July 2. Candidates have until Saturday to file their nomination papers, and can withdraw them by May 29. The CP will issue election symbols for the candidates a day later.
Debate on the bill in the National Assembly began with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Khawaja Asif leading the charge, followed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak.
Asif acknowledged that the people of FATA had suffered the impact of being on the frontlines of the 17-year-long Afghan war against terrorism.
“After 2000, the Afghan war was not our war,” Asif told the Lower House. “Even after 18 years, America has not been able to win the war.”
“The people of FATA should be granted special privileges right away, which will remain for the next 10 years for as long as development work is ongoing,” he said.
“People from the tribal areas are currently spread all over the country. They should be given special privileges ─ until stability has been established there ─ to alleviate their hardships,” he said.
“Drone strikes would be taking place in the area, whether they were holding weddings there or funerals,” the former defence minister pointed out.
“FATA was especially impacted by the fight against terrorism. The country owes the people of FATA,” Asif said. “If they are given perks that people in other areas are not given, it is justified.”
“Although there is now some stability in FATA, the wounds will take time to heal,” he said.
“This House will have to make sure that we are not the tools of some super power.”
Addressing the House, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said that the decision to merge FATA with KP should have happened some 70 years ago.
“The humanity of the people of the area was not recognised under the Frontier Crimes Regulation,” Khattak said, referring to a draconian colonial-era law that governed the area.
“After the FATA merger, the people will take part in Pakistan’s development. The people of FATA have protected our borders for the sake of Pakistan. We have to, for the sake of our country, come together and move forward,” he said.
“We are trying to ensure the provision of basic facilities and employment opportunities in FATA,” Khattak said.
The minister said that some Rs100 billion will be spent on the tribal districts each year for 10 years.
Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said the bill had been finalised after consultation with all political parties in the parliament and was a major gift from the parliament to the people living in the tribal districts.
Safron minister Shehryar Afridi said that under the amendment, the tribal districts’ seats in the KP Assembly had been increased to 24, and those in the NA to 12.
MNAs of the tribal districts hailed both the opposition and the treasury benches for their support and expressed confidence that the problems and hardships faced by the people of their areas will be addressed on a priority basis.
The house has now been adjourned to meet again on Monday at noon.