ISLAMABAD: Accepting the recommendations of the Fata Reforms Committee, the federal government in a landmark decision on Thursday approved the merger of the tribal area into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Chaired by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the federal cabinet approved the package that contains 24-point recommendations about mainstreaming of Fata in five years in consultation with all stakeholders.
Speaking on the occasion, Nawaz said it was the collective responsibility of the federal government and provinces to come forward for the development and mainstreaming of Fata, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan (GB).
"Pakistan belongs to every Pakistani and all areas of the country should have equal rights and access to national resources," the prime minister said.
“Today is a landmark date in the country’s history. Since the dawn of our nation, select people have been treated differently due to their place of birth. The Fata people have been deprived of their fundamental rights for too long, facing economic deprivation, pains of terrorism and the anguish of isolation. Our government has finalised reforms that will bring Fata out of the primitive ages.”
Nawaz said the road map for merger will provide constitutional protection, local government, extension of criminal justice system, modern policingand share in the fruits of development to the area people.
He reminded that the people of Fata will no longer be at the whims of an unjust and unaccountable system. “Today, they are on the true path of freedom who can share in the dream of prosperity and be part of a country on the road to becoming stable, secure and safe for people of all stripes.”
He maintained that Pakistanis living in far-flung areas of AJK, GB and Fata must be enabled to get access to services and facilities available to the residents of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta.
He pointed out that those unwilling to extend the required cooperation and assistance for mainstreaming of Fata, GB and AJK are "actually promoting provincialism". Nawaz said development of Fata was the responsibility of the entire nation and country.
"Mainstreaming and developing these less developed areas is not the sole responsibility of people living in Islamabad, but every Pakistani must contribute to this process," he said. The prime minister mentioned the patriotism and nationalism of the people of Fata and said their history was filled with examples of love with Pakistan.
"They gave immense sacrifices for the defence and sovereignty of Pakistan. Now, time has come to include them in national mainstream and address their deprivation," he said. He stressed the need to promote the spirit of nationalism for the country's solidarity and include all parts of country to benefit from the fruits of progress.
"It is our responsibility to focus more on under-developed areas and provide opportunities to the locals to progress in different fields of life," he said. Governor KPK Iqbal Zafar Jhagra attended the meeting on special invitation.
Federal Secretary Safron Arbab Shahzad briefed the cabinet on the recommendations of the committee. Later, briefing newsmen, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who was Chairman of the Committee, said necessary constitutional amendments would be made to enable the eople of Fata to elect their representatives to the KP Assembly for 2018 general elections.
Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would be repealed and replaced with legislation for new “Rewaj system.” The recommendations also include the target date for repatriation of all temporary displaced people (TDPs) as 30th of April this year while reconstruction activities would be completed by 2018.
A high level committee of experts would be formed with the KP Governor as its head to prioritize preparation of a 10-year socio-economic development plan for Fata by 30th of April this year.
The NFC would be requested to consider making allocations of 3% of gross federal divisible pool on annual basis for implementation of the FATA Development Plan (FDP). This would be in addition to existing annual PSDP of 21 billion rupees. Thirty percent allocations under FATA Development Plan would go to local bodies.
Fata development authority (FDA) would be reorganized under a chief operating officer in BS-22 to supervise and coordinate reconstruction phase.
A governor's advisory council consisting of senators and MNAs from FATA would be formed to assist the governor in carrying out development and administrative functions.
Permits of Rahdari (Passage) for export and import in Fata would be abolished to eliminate large scale corruption and bring down prices of essential items.
The Auditor-General would ensure that development funds and other expenditure of local bodies in Fata are properly audited to ensure efficient utilization.
The jurisdiction of Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court would be extended to Fata through an act of parliament. The State Bank of Pakistan would encourage establishment of more branches of banks in Fata.
Land settlement in the area would be planned and undertaken in consultation with stakeholders. Proper coverage of BISP, Bait-ul-Mal and micro financing would also be ensured in the area.
Quota of students from Fata in educational and health institutions in other provinces would be doubled and retained for ten years integration with the KP. Replying to a question Sartaj Aziz said implementation of the recommendation would be gradual.
Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) General Abdul Qadir Baloch said FATA people did not get empowerment for 67 years and for the first time they would get their rights.
The Fata representatives would be included in the advisory committee and therefore they would have a say in making decisions and implementing plans for development.
He said after five years Fata would be completely merged with the KP but the federal government would continue to provide funding for Fata Development Plan for 10 years.
About Rs110 billion would be spent on Fata development annually for ten years. Steps would be taken to bring the area on a par with other areas of the country. The minister said Fata would not be allowed to be made controversial and black law of FCR would be abolished.
He said additional posts of levies would be established in Fata. KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said 85% of IDPs had returned to their homes and the process would be completed before June this year.
He said approval of reforms was a historic decision that would change the fate of people of Fata. The cabinet also recommended that connectivity of Fata with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) should be ensured at suitable locations.
The six-member committee headed by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs was constituted in November 2015 for political mainstreaming of FATA. The committee held meetings with all the stakeholders and consulted over 3,500 tribal Maliks and elders in all the seven Agencies in Fata and the Frontier Regions.
The committee's recommendations were also discussed in detail in Parliament and received a positive response. All six members of the committee were present in the news briefing. They are Sartaj Aziz, federal ministers Zahid Hamid, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, NSA Nasser Khan Janjua, and Arbab Shehzad. State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb was also present in the briefing held in the Foreign Office.
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