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September 4, 2018

Fata-KP merger: Bureaucrats seek a year’s time to devise roadmap


September 4, 2018

PESHAWAR: The issue of merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is becoming a cause of suspicion as the Fata Secretariat has reportedly sought one year time to devise just a roadmap for the “remaining” task.

Official sources told The News on Monday that Adviser to the Prime Minster on Establishment, Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, has recently sought update on the Fata-KP merger in the aftermath of the constitutional amendments and decisions that set in motion the process of merger of Fata with the province earlier this year.

However, the high-ups of the Fata Secretariat sought one-year time from the prime minister’s adviser to merely sketch out a roadmap for the complete merger. The development, which could lead to further delay in the merger, and is seen as a damper concerning the 100-day plan of the prime minister aimed at setting direction for a turnaround of the national affairs.

A senior bureaucrat, who requested anonymity, said that whereas the newly inducted government in the province would be facing a number of challenges in its initial days, the biggest challenge is going to be the smooth merger of the erstwhile Fata with KP in its true spirit. The official said the task of merger should not solely be left to the Fata Secretariat as it would lead to a perilous delay.

Any such delay, whether by default or by design, would benefit the elements, including political leaders, beneficiaries of the old system and bureaucrats, who continue to oppose the merger tooth and nail and who are still serving in the tribal districts and Fata Secretariat, he argued.

The advocates of change, especially the youth and educated segment, had got extremely disappointed with the lukewarm approach of the previous federal government in implementing the reforms.

However, their expectations have gone up after Prime Minister Imran Khan in his policy speech even before assuming charge of his office announced the merger as a top priority of his government.

It is also included in the 100-day plan of his government and election manifesto of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the official said. He added that the people of the tribal districts are now eagerly waiting for a prudent roadmap in this regard.

“Time is of the essence. Any further delay or manipulation will not be without a cost,” said the senior bureaucrat, who is heading a key state institution. He observed: “Political leaders who have been defeated in the recent general election are likely to agitate the issue for their political survival. We should at the same time not lose sight of yet another development -- the emergence of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), which in a very short time has become a force to be reckoned with, particularly after the victory of its leaders in the National Assembly constituencies in the North and South Waziristan districts.”

He apprehended that apparently the PTM had raised voice against human rights violations in parts of the erstwhile Fata, but deep down there seems an anger and hatred among its followers against the state for some other reasons as well.

“They have been talking, though not very openly, about the unification of the Lar (lower) and Bar (upper) Pashtuns – a reference to the Pashtun population living on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border (Durand Line).

There is also an opinion that the PTM emerged following the fencing of the Durand Line by Pakistani authorities. Whatever the real story be, the need of the hour is to take these people into confidence, especially when majority of them are young and are easily swayed by their emotions,” said the bureaucrat, who has also served as political agent and on other vital positions in the former tribal agencies.

Countering these challenges would certainly require statesmanship and high administrative skills on the part of those on whose shoulders the responsibility of governing PK has been placed, he argued.

“The new chief executive of the province has to form a team of professionals possessing the required experience, expertise and a high degree of commitment to the cause of the hapless people of former Fata who suffered a lot for the sake of Pakistan,” he opined.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has already been briefed by additional chief secretary (ACS) Fata Secretariat, Sikandar Qayyum, on the merger-related matters. The sources confided to The News that a comprehensive plan containing a cut-off date for merger would be given shortly.