Lawmakers in the National Assembly voted in favour of the bill calling for the merger of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday. In the first round, 229 votes were cast in favour of the bill. Eleven MNAs voted against it. Law Minister Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk tabled the amendment bill. A two-third majority (228 votes) was...
Lawmakers in the National Assembly voted in favour of the bill calling for the merger of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday.
In the first round, 229 votes were cast in favour of the bill. Eleven MNAs voted against it.
Law Minister Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk tabled the amendment bill. A two-third majority (228 votes) was required to pass it as law.
As per Speaker Ayaz Sadiq’s instructions, all those in favour of the bill stood up.
All the clauses of the bill are now being read and adopted one by one. The Speaker reads the clauses, after which he asks all the MNAs to stand if they agree with the clause. If someone disagrees, they are asked to debate the changes they want. One such amendment was to increase the seats for women from nine to 10 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, reducing the number of women seats in Punjab from 33 to 32.
Other than Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl, dissident PTI MNA Dawar Khan Kundi opposed the bill. He is the same PTI MNA who said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Minister Ali Amin Gandapur protected the suspects involved in stripping, parading a 16-year-old in Dera Ismail Khan in 2017.
On the other hand, MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar said that his party is supporting the bill “for the sake of political unity”. According to him, his party still believes that FATA should be made a separate province.
Dr Sattar called for the formation of 19 provinces, including Karachi, on administrative grounds. He said that the MQM had put the bills for creation of provinces of South Punjab, Hazara and FATA. According to him, the will of the people of FATA should be taken into account by holding a referendum.
United we stand
Upon his arrival, PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi greeted and shook hands with a number of MNAs, including PTI chief Imran Khan and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah. “We all stand united on the FATA merger bill,” he said.
On Wednesday, PM Abbasi chaired a session with PML-N’s Barrister Zafarullah, PPP leader Sherry Rehman, PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Sherpao. They finally agreed upon the amendment bill for the merger. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party members boycotted the session.
The federal cabinet had approved the amendment earlier this week.
On December 14, 2016, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly adopted a resolution in favour of merging FATA with the province. The purpose was to rehabilitate and reconstruct the infrastructure, including roads, communications, power lines, water supply, education and health facilities. The federal cabinet approved the formation of a high-level national implementation committee for FATA reforms on December 26 last year.
Imran Khan in attendance
PTI chief Imran Khan, who generally boycotts National Assembly sessions, will attend today’s session to cast his vote. Opposition Leader of the National Assembly Khurshid Shah said remarked that Mr Khan should have attended sessions on other important issues as well. According to Mr Khan, he would have attended the sessions had the opposition leader been a strong one.
The PTI chief said that it was the responsibility of the PM to run the assembly. “It is the prime minister who empowers the assembly,” he said.
Why the opposition?
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl are opposing the merger.
According to Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, the merger is an attempt to divide the Pashtuns. “If the government is so concerned about FATA, it should give a separate province status to FATA through a referendum,” said Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel, a senator of the party.
JUI-F, which believes the reforms are part of a ‘global conspiracy’, also demands a separate province for the tribal people. Maulana Mir Zaman, an MNA of the party, said the committee was tasked to propose reforms for mainstreaming FATA and not to suggest its merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. According to him, the FATA reforms committee violated its mandate by suggesting the merger.
Both JUI-F and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party are allies of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz.
Credit goes to Nawaz Sharif: KP Governor
Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, the KP Governor termed FATA-KP merger a historic victory of the present government.
“Credit goes to Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
He said the government had worked really hard for the legislation. “We visited every agency in the trial area and observed the majority was in favour of merger with KP.”
Mr. Jhagra said the federal government has allocated an additional amount of Rs.100 billion per year for the uplift of tribal areas.
The flip side
There are ways in which the merger will empower the people of FATA.
According to the proposed 31st Amendment of the Constitution, the seats for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly will increase to 147 from 126 after the province merges with FATA. The general seats of the provincial assembly will increase from 99 to 117 while the seats for women will increase from 22 to 26. The seats for religious minorities will become four instead of three.
FATA is currently governed by the British-era Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) law. FCR hands out collective punishments to entire tribes. FATA does not have courts. It does not have a regular police either. Under the FCR, women cannot inherit property, which disenfranchises its approximately 2.4 million women.
Gradually, the reforms are expected to improve the situation. The FCR is expected be abolished after the merger. On paper, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court has been extended to FATA. Practical implementation has yet to be rolled out.
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(This is a developing story and is being updated accordingly)