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National

May 19, 2017

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Govt faces tough time over Fata reforms issue

Govt faces tough time over Fata reforms issue

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ISLAMABAD: Political expediency at play on Thursday tangled PML-N government in a difficult situation on Fata reforms courtesy key allies – Fazlur Rehman and Achakzai. 

As a result, the whole progress on the issue achieved through a painstakingly tedious process came to a grinding halt. With no back up, alternative political strategy at hand, the treasury could only indefinitely postpone the session at hand. And double down to cool down rising tempers, unbridled emotions weaved around the issue. It makes Speaker Ayaz Sadiq’s job quite tricky – he has to balance his act treading a fine line. Put a lid on unbridled emotions, and enforce rules and regulations at the same time to keep the session rolling. On Thursday too, he had to warn a rowdy Fata legislator, Shahji Gul Afridi and PTI’s Shireen Mazari too. She never misses such opportunities. And then doesn’t need a microphone to make her voice heard, presence felt. Then the Speaker had to seek elderly Ghulam Ahmed Bilour’s intervention for better sense to prevail. But from Aftab Sherapo to Shah Mahmud Qureshi, and then PPP’s Khursheed Shah to ANP’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour – everyone favours Parliament to decide Fata’s fate. And provide much needed relief to millions of Fata residents having gone through mass scale displacements, destruction and terrorism during the last decade or so. Maulana-Achakzai duo is not interested. They favour a status quo to meet petty political ends.

It all started as the news broke on Wednesday evening that JUI-F chief had got his way by convincing Premier Nawaz Sharif (through telephonic conversation in China) not to present the Fata reforms bill in the current session of the National Assembly. Maulana’s advice was adhered to citing political compulsions to take along allies. Safron minister was innocent enough to deny Maulana-Sharif contact, spilling beans at the same time by admitting that the treasury has to take the allies along. Political compulsions loom large. As a consequence one has to bear with yet another emotional, rhetorical outburst from Pashtun nationalist leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai. It created quite a stir and pandemonium in the Lower House of Parliament, forcing Speaker to warn Fata MP Shahji Gul Afridi who was getting out of control after listening to Achakzai’s twisted logic whereby he declared Fata a buffer zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan. There was however method to this madness. This forced the PTI bandwagon, including Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah to register a spontaneous protest.

Earlier, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, came up with his own logic in favour of status quo in Fata. Like Fazlur Rehman, he favours a referendum in Fata to decide its status – whether to merge with KP or be an independent province. In fact, Achakzai moves a step further in favour of the present status quo, telling everyone, especially Pakistani establishment in a veiled manner, that altering Fata status would have international consequences. But all this is not on pure ideological grounds, but definitely has strings attached. His party, especially family, continues to enjoy governorship of Balochistan with his elder brother happily saddled on the prized slot, and then provincial ministries too. Historically, Achakzai and ilk happily side with Afghanistan government’s propaganda in the name of Pushtun nationalism, tribalism. On Thursday, he didn’t mince words trying to press his unique logic that the Fata was a buffer zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan as per a 150-year-old deal between the then British rulers and Afghan government. So the status should not be altered in the present century. Achakzai also strongly opposes repatriation of 3 million plus Afghan refugees to their country even when it has brought a lot of upheaval to Pakistani social fabric – terrorism by some Afghan nationals in the guise of refugees being the most pressing problem. His democratic credentials apart, Achakzai doesn’t want the Afghan refugees to leave as thousands of them are registered as his party voters in various constituencies from where leading lights of his PkMAP contest elections. Then there is a multi-billion rupees worth of trade through unofficial channels in those Pashtun areas bordering the Durand line. Ideologically, Achakzai and likeminded nationalist Pashtuns do not recognise sanctity of the Pak-Afghan border complaining that this hampers the centuries old to and fro movement of tribal people living on both sides of the border. So here we are JUI-F-PkMAP – the main coalition partners of PML-N from KP and Balochistan using their political muscle in the election year to halt a crucial initiative of the Sharif-led government just to meet their petty ends.

Remember the other day when Maulana Fazlur Rehman threw an open challenge to halt any progress on Fata reforms bill. Hardly anyone took his warning seriously then and there. And here we are, the Maulana demonstrating his political muscle by not only getting the bill postponed, forcing the government to adjourn the whole session. This simply means the whole Fata reforms are in limbo for some weeks and months now. And one cannot carry out such legislations in May-June budget session. Though Fazlur Rehman stood true to his words, but one wonders why he is at daggers drawn with rest of the mainstream political parties on the issue, in the process putting his main ally the ruling PML-N on back foot and despite that federal cabinet has already approved the Fata reforms bill. JUI-F is part and parcel of the cabinet, never demonstrates the guts to resign over such a crucial, contentious issue at hand. 

  Tail piece: PTI legislator Ayesha Gulelalai was too emotional, difficult to control amidst news camera glare as she marshaled protesters surrounding the Pesco offices the other day even when rest of the PTI leadership was engaged in talks. This forced Minister Khawaja Asif to reveal some startling figures that there is 89 percent power theft from the area she got elected. It stirred controversy in the NA forcing agitation, walkout. But the situation also provides PTI’s moral brigade to correct, dispute minister’s claims, and lend a helping hand to rectify the situation. Collective punishment to all falling under an electricity feeder with such a high theft rate is not advisable, but one hopes PTI’s tabdeeli movement could educate such people. A tweet and video message by Imran Khan on this issue will be handy. Hope the skipper won’t let us down.

 

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