Cabinet approves committee to oversee Fata merger

Govt expected to table Fata reforms bill in NA likely to be convened on January 8

Sardar Sikander December 27, 2017
Map: File

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved the formation of National Implementation Committee to oversee the issue of the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), besides a host of other initiatives under Fata reforms.

The decision was taken at a meeting that continued for around five hours to discuss the merger issue as well as other agenda items in detail. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chaired the meeting.

FATA mainstreaming matter of days, says PM

According to the PM Office, the cabinet granted “ex-post facto approval to the formation of National Implementation Committee on Fata Reforms”. Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt have been included in the high-level implementation committee.

The government is expected to table the bill on Fata reforms in the National Assembly’s session expected to be summoned on January 8, 2018, official sources told The Express Tribune.

The National Implementation Committee will take the stakeholders on board before preparing for the panel’s final draft that will be incorporated in the Fata reforms bill to be taken up in the lower house for legislation, according to the sources.

“This will be done on urgent basis,” claimed a government official. He dispelled the impression that the formation of yet another committee on Fata reforms implied that the matter had landed into cold storage.

The development takes place at a time when the calls from public and political circles to merge Fata with K-P are increasing. A countrywide signature campaign has been launched by a Fata Youth Jirga in favour of the merger.

Earlier on Monday, PM Abbasi during his visit to Khyber Agency termed Fata’s mainstreaming a ‘matter of days not weeks’. He had slammed the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and again called for their abolition.

Last week, the PM – after detailed deliberations with members of the ruling party, including party chief Nawaz Sharif, as well as opposition parties and the army chief – decided to reject the pressure coming from the party’s coalition partners, the JUI-F and the PkMAP.

Malala Yousafzai demands FATA's merger with K-P ASAP

During a recent meeting with the Fata Supreme Council which comprises members of the JUI-F, the PM is said to have conveyed that wide public consensus was in favour of Fata reforms and the government was not in a position to resist the public pressure.

Over a fortnight ago, the government looked like tabling the Fata reforms bill in the NA but could not, allegedly due to pressure from the JUI-F and the PkMAP. The opposition parties have since then boycotted the NA proceedings and staged walkouts against the government’s apparent backtracking on Fata reforms.

Other decisions

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet also approved the Hajj Policy and Plan, 2018. According to an official statement, the cabinet decided not to increase the dues this year under the government-sponsored Hajj scheme.

Also, the cabinet accorded permission, in principle, to sign the revised Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Ministry of Employment and Labor of the Republic of Korea on sending and receiving of workers under the Employment Permit System.

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