ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Thursday said the bill providing for the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been passed following a consensus among political parties – and not because of any external pressure.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose party along with Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) consistently opposed the latest move, had termed the merger of Fata with K-P a foreign agenda
He said the merger move came at the US’ behest. “The recent statement of the US government in favour of the merger had proved it,” he had said.
The Maulana said US officials had assured the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s provincial government that it supported the merger.
“The US support has exposed PTI connections with its foreign masters,” he had said.
NA passes 'historic' Fata, K-P merger bill
“The merger of Fata with K-P has been part of the PML-N's manifesto,” the prime minister said while addressing a news conference after the passage of the bill in the National Assembly.
The prime minister added that later the political parties termed it a good step and extended their support to the passage of the bill with a clear two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
He said the government had formed the Fata Reforms Committee led by Sartaj Aziz that followed the constitution of an implementation committee comprising the chief minister and governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, army chief and other stakeholders.
“After threadbare debate, all stakeholders evolved a consensus to replace the centuries-old tribal laws with regular laws and merge the area with K-P,” Abbasi said while recalling the events that led to the historic decision.
The prime minister said the bill had also given a timeframe for the local government election to be held this year.
All mainstream political parties hail ‘historic’ FATA, K-P merger bill, except JUI-F
The provincial assembly election will be held within a year as delimitation and political system were yet to be established there, he added.
The prime minister, who was accompanied by cabinet members – including Marriyum Aurangzeb, Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch and former law minister Zahid Hamid – said, “Under the bill, twelve National Assembly seats has been maintained though the area is entitled to six seats as per criteria.”
“Moreover, eight seats of the Senate have also been protected,” he added.
All Senate seats would fall vacant till 2024 and there would be no further election on those seats, he informed the media
The prime minister said the passage of the bill was just the beginning of a process for the uplift of Fata.
"We have to win the trust of the people in Fata, not through mere slogans but actions and development in Fata," he added.
He said it was essential to build universities, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure at par with other cities and called for the house's commitment on the subject.
The prime minister said the government had already announced to extend the jurisdictions of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court and the decision would be implemented along with the whole process of merger.
He told the media that the government had proposed allocation of Rs100 billion a year for a 10-year period to develop the area at par with others.
The development schemes would be identified in coordination with the provincial government, he added.
To a question about the reservations of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Mehmood Achakzai, the prime minister said the matter had been discussed for long and threadbare.
Majority of the parties supported the merger for welfare of the people, particularly the youth from Fata desired such a legislation for their uplift.
He said after the constitutional amendment by parliament, the bill would also be required to be enacted by the provincial assembly.
If the incumbent assembly wanted to pass this during their remainder period, the PML-N would support the ruling party to get it passed with the two-thirds majority.
He said after accomplishment of the special development package, the province would be given its share under the NFC formula like other provinces.
Asked why a huge number of parliamentarians had not come up for voting the constitutional amendment, the prime minister said twenty-two members from his party were absent and he would question them.
He said some members had genuine reasons to abstain from the session and a few other had not come as they had left the party.
He said, “Not a huge number has quit the party.”
Those who were blaming Nawaz Sharif's doctrine behind their decision to leave the party was just a notion, he added.
He said everyone including him were well cognizant of the people and their political career who had left the party. “They have exercised their right but they will get no advantage out of it,” he added.
Prime Minister Abbasi said the voters’ base of the PML-N was intact as the people have realised the situation and they would give their verdict in the July 2018 elections.
To a question whether the government would take action against those whom Nawaz Sharif had mentioned in his doctrine, the prime minister said such things could not be prosecuted.
However, truth and reconciliation commission could be formed to look into such matters as had been in vogue in other countries, he added.
He viewed that such commissions should also be formed through national consensus to document what had been happening in the country.
Regarding the caretaker prime minister, Abbasi said both the government and the opposition had put forward three names each. “They will meet again for a final round to evolve a consensus on any one of the proposed names or any other one.”
In case, both the sides failed to reach any agreement, they will propose two names each to be forwarded to the parliamentary committee. If the matter remained unresolved at parliament too, the same four names would be referred to the Election Commission for a final decision.
To a question, the prime minister said the PML-N had never boycotted the elections nor would it do in the future.