ISLAMABAD: The National Implementation Committee on Fata Reforms, notified after the federal cabinet’s approval on Tuesday, has been tasked to implement the already agreed recommendations for mainstreaming the Federally Administered Tribal Areas without taking up any issue outside their purview.
The notification issued after the cabinet approved the formation of the committee led to speculation that the government intended to hold fresh political deliberations on the tribal region’s merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other initiatives proposed by the Fata Reforms Committee.
However, official sources said the new committee would not be mandated to touch any issue afresh. The implementation committee will function under the supervision of the prime minister and take steps to ensure the materialisation of the Fata reforms panel’s recommendations approved by the cabinet last year. The proposals require parliamentary legislation to come into effect.
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The key proposals aimed at mainstreaming the tribal areas include their merger with K-P, abolition of the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and extension of the superior judiciary’s jurisdiction to Fata.
The implementation committee comprises the defence minister, the Peshawar corps commander and other civil and military officials.
An official said the three-star general was included in the committee after consultation with the security establishment. “This will give a clear message that there is complete unison of approach and action between the government and the military on the issue of Fata’s merger with K-P,” he said.
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The source said the government had decided to reject the pressure of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai after securing sufficient support in and outside parliament on Fata reforms. “All parliamentary parties, barring two, support Fata’s merger. So, securing majority in parliament to carry out the required legislation is not a problem. That the two leaders who represent smaller political parties oppose Fata reforms is not such a big deal.”
The government is expected to table the bill on Fata reforms during a National Assembly session expected to be summoned on January 8, official sources told The Express Tribune.
The development takes place at a time when calls from public and political circles to merge Fata with K-P are increasing. A countrywide signature campaign in favour of the merger has been launched by Fata Youth Jirga comprising youths from across the tribal region regardless of political affiliations.
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On Monday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Khyber Agency where he minced no words to term Fata’s mainstreaming a “matter of days not weeks”. He criticised the FCR and reiterated his resolve to abolish it. Addressing a gathering in Jamrud, he said, “It is shameful that parliamentarians from Fata are able to legislate for the entire country, but not their own region.”
The sources said the PM had decided to reject the pressure from Fazl and Achakai against Fata’s merger with K-P after holding detailed deliberations last week with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N’s chief Nawaz Sharif and other members, government officials, representatives of opposition parties and army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
During a recent meeting with the Fata Supreme Council formed by the JUI-F, the PM reportedly said there was a broad public consensus in favour of Fata reforms and the government was not in a position to resist the public pressure and that of political parties for long because general elections were scheduled after a few months and backtracking on the issue could cost the PML-N dearly.
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Over a fortnight ago, the government indicated it would table the Fata reforms bill in the NA but did not do so due to the opposition from the two coalition partners. The opposition parties repeatedly boycotted the assembly proceedings in protest against the government’s apparent backtracking on the reforms.