Political bickering puts FATA reforms on backburner

A key implementation panel headed by PM is yet to hold first meeting


Riazul Haq March 01, 2018
A key implementation panel headed by PM is yet to hold first meeting. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: As political bickering takes a centre stage in the country, the oft-repeated and debated reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have taken a back seat.

This is evident from the fact that the first meeting of the top implementation committee headed by the prime minister has yet to take place even after two months of its notification.

It was in December 2017, when the federal cabinet approved to form a six-member Fata reforms implementation committee headed by PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Interestingly, the same decision was also made in March 2017, but even after two notifications the committee has yet to meet to discuss the roadmap for implementation of reforms in tribal areas.

“I see several reasons for the delay in reforms, but the tussle among institutions and the ruling party is one of the major reasons that has put the matter of millions of tribal people in jeopardy,” said Member of National Assembly Shah Gul Afridi, who has been at the forefront to debate the issue in and outside parliament.

Following the decision of the federal cabinet in March 2017 about the merger of Fata in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the situation has taken several twists and turns, and the government has yet to come up with a clear position for several political reasons.

Since then the government has replaced the term ‘merger’ with ‘mainstreaming’ apparently after the harsh criticism from two allies of the ruling party.

FATA reforms: PHC moved to halt merger with K-P

Since the notification of the high-level committee that includes Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and the Peshawar corps commander and the chief of army staff, not a single meeting has been held.

“We are preparing the agenda for the meeting, and will then forward to the prime minister,” said Ministry of States and Frontier Regions Secretary Capt (retd) Jahanzeb Khan.

Refusing to share probable date of the next meeting, he said the perception about delay in work on the reforms was equally inequitable.

Afridi added that the most sought-after legislation of extending jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court has also been halted in the Senate because all parties were preparing for the upcoming elections of the upper house of parliament.

In January, the National Assembly had passed the bill for extending the jurisdiction of the higher judiciary to the tribal belt, but it has yet to be tabled in the Senate and it is likely that it will be taken after the Senate election.

Sources in the Ministry of Safron have also confirmed that no success has been made in developing and implementing the reforms about the annual provincial share of Rs100 billion in the NFC.

“The ministry thinks that the provinces’ reluctance to share with Fata the money allocated to them under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award is one of the major reasons behind delay in the implementation of the reforms,” said a senior official privy to the development.

PM Abbasi has already told Fata lawmakers in an informal meeting that the provinces were unwilling to share their piece of cake for the purpose.

Former PM Nawaz Sharif had even vowed to share the amount from the federal divisible pool but till now there is no news about the NFC award and provinces stance.

Similarly, as per the Fata Reforms Committee report of 2016, the chief operating officer (COO) to look after Fata reforms has also been stalled for now.

Currently, the Fata additional chief secretary is looking after the charge of COO.

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