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May 28, 2018

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Fata-KP merger finalised


PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly on Sunday passed the Constitutional (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Bill 2018 by majority as 92 lawmakers voted in its favour, paving the way for the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with the province.

Except for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) lawmakers, the treasury and opposition members voted in favour of the bill moved by Law Minister Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi, who belongs to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

About 92 lawmakers belonging to the ruling PTI, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Awami Nationa Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) went to the 'Yes' lobby and seven members of the JUI-F to the 'No' lobby when Speaker Asad Qaiser asked for division of the members for counting.

After passage from the National Assembly and Senate, the bill was adopted by the provincial assembly with more than two-thirds majority, which was a prerequisite for passage of the constitutional amendment that paved the way for the merger.

With the adoption of the bill, Fata and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) would stand dissolved and would become part of the settled areas of the province. Likewise, the Pata in Balochistan would also become a settled area.

Earlier, speaking on the issue, Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak said it was a moment of happiness for the people of Fata who got rid of the black law of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

He said the draconian law had deprived the tribal people of their rights since the inception of Pakistan. The chief minister criticised the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai and said despite belonging to Balochistan, he meddled in the affairs of Fata.

He asked the JUI-F leadership to stop opposing Fata's merger with KP. Asking the lawmakers to adopt the bill, the chief minister assured the House that no taxes would be imposed in the Malakand Division as it had already been exempted from tax for five years.

He assured the lawmakers that an ordinance would be enacted to exempt the Malakand region from new taxes. "See how we are living in KP. We have all rights and facilities like courts, universities, hospitals. Why don't you people want the tribespeople to avail themselves of all these amenities of life? I request JUI-F leaders to stop opposing the merger," he said.

In his speech, leader of opposition Maulana Lutfur Rehman said that the JUI-F opposed the bill because it didn't represent the will of the tribal people.

He claimed that foreign agenda was being imposed on the tribespeople with little consideration for their aspirations and well-being.

He maintained the government should have left the merger issue to the next assembly as it did in the case of the budget. The parliamentary leaders, including Sardar Hussain Babak of ANP, Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha of PML-N, Muhammad Ali Shah Bacha of PPP, Inayatullah of JI and Sikandar Hayat Sherpao of QWP, termed the passage of the legislation a watershed moment in the country's parliamentary history.

They said the tribespeople had lagged far behind in every sector as the British-era FCR was imposed upon them and it deprived them of their basic human rights. Congratulating the people of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they said the legislation would help bring the hitherto underdeveloped tribal areas on a par with the other parts of the country.

Minister for Information Shah Farman, Rashad Khan, Shakil Ahmad, Syed Jaffar Shah, Qurban Ali Khan, Muhammad Ali and Shah Muhammad Khan also welcomed the passage of the bill.

The House also passed a resolution about the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) in the Malakand Division. With the abolition of Article 247 of the Constitution, Pata has become fully integrated with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The resolution moved by Dr Haider Ali stated that after abolition of Article 247 the government should let the Malakand Division remain tax-free as it was an underdeveloped region.

The resolution also called for re-imposition of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in the Malakand Division as the merger bill has revoked it. The resolution demanded that a special package of Rs100 billion should be announced for the uplift of Pata as its residents faced natural calamities like floods and earthquakes and further destruction during militancy and subsequent military operations.

Meanwhile, several persons including six policemen were injured in clashes outside the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) activists staged a protest on Sunday ahead of voting on a bill proposing the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with KP.

Also, around 30 JUI-F workers were arrested during the clashes outside the assembly building on the Khyber Road.

At least six policemen and almost a dozen protesters were injured in the clashes that erupted on Sunday afternoon when the JUI-F workers tried to enter the assembly premises to disrupt voting on the legislation for merger of Fata with KP. A couple of journalists covering the protest also sustained injuries.

The JUI-F workers, who had reportedly mostly come from Fata, were protesting against the merger of Fata with KP. They were determined to record their protest despite the hot weather and Ramazan.

An emergency session of the provincial assembly had been called to endorse the merger. It was also the last session of the KP Assembly, which has now completed its five-year term. The bill was passed despite the protest.

"Five or six policemen were wounded when protesters pelted stones at them. Around 30 protesters were also arrested," Superintendent of Police (SP) Cantt Waseem Riaz told The News. The protesters set on fire a number of sign boards, posters and banners. They also damaged the material and machinery of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. Plumes of smoke could be seen rising outside the assembly building.

The violent protesters also pelted stones without any provocation at the members of the media covering the protest. A number of DSNG vans of different media organisations were also damaged by the protesters.

The Khyber Union of Journalists and the Peshawar Press Club have convened a meeting on Monday to draw the future line of action in the wake of the attacks on media persons and DSNG vans by the JUI-F workers.

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