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May 15, 2019

Towards better representation


May 15, 2019

The unanimous approval by the National Assembly of the 26th Amendment to the constitution on Monday, which increases the number of assembly seats for the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas is welcome. The unanimous vote to increase the seats in the provincial and national assemblies shows that a democratic setup is always the best way forward to redress the grievances of people and create a stable country. The 26th Amendment has increased the seats for ex-Fata from six to 12 in the National Assembly as well as from 16 to 24 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. The amendment has also restored the ex-Fata seats to 12 after the 25th Amendment had reduced them from 12 to six. It was good to see the amendment pass unopposed -- with all parties putting aside their differences to give the people of the former tribal regions a more equal seat at the table.

Much of the progress is the result of the hard work of the six MNAs from the region, and a sign of how those from Pakistan’s smaller regions can push the country towards greater harmony. Having increased the formal representation of the ex-Fata region in parliament, one must now hope that parliament takes a more active role in resolving the many issues that face the country, instead of the rule by experts strategy that seems to be in vogue.

Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan talked about the importance of ending the sense of deprivation in some parts of the country -- especially by those who feel they have no stakes in the country. In the case of the former Fata region, there is still resentment over the area being used as a space to launch the Afghan war before it became the home ground for terrorist groups of all kinds. This led to the the people of Fata becoming hostage to these groups and then suffering when wars were waged to eliminate these groups. Restoring a sense of ownership and a stake in the country will require the state to do more than increase the number of seats for the region. It is clear that parliament has full cognition of this fact, which means that it should not stop here. The PM has asked the provinces to chip in three percent of the NFC award for the development of the former Fata regions. This might be too little for a region ravaged by decades of war -- but it would be an important step. The 26th Amendment sets the right tone, but it will need to be followed by further concrete action.

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