ISLAMABAD - The PML-N government in Monday’s National Assembly session introduced the Constitution (Thirtieth Amendment) Bill, 2017 that would help in creation of more seats in the KP Assembly following integration of the Fata with the KP province.

Another bill, “The Riwaj Act, 2017” was also introduced for extension of jurisdictions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Peshawar High Court to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The house held around four hours of discussion on the two bills , and later referred them to the relevant standing committees for further discussion.

The 30th Amendment Bill provides for amendment in Article 106 of the Constitution envisaging increase in KP Assembly seats from 124 to 147, which include 18 general seats, four seats for women and one seat for non Muslims from Fata .

The statement of objects and reason of the bill says “the creation of seats is also of paramount importance for the fact that, if delayed, it will not only hamper the integration or the mainstreaming of the Fata but also neglect a favourable opportunity.”

The opposition parties also supported the amendment bill. But a difference of opinion between government and its ally, the JUI-F, was visible, which led to exchange of hot words for a while.

Fazl feels betrayed

The JUI-F strongly opposed the move with Maulana Fazlur Rehman warning the PML-N government to refrain from an action that could raise objections from the neighbouring Afghanistan and further deteriorate relations with it.

The JUI-F chief said there was need to take people of Fata into confidence before making any decision.

“Don’t make it controversial... It is the prerogative of the Fata people to decide their fate,” he said.

Fazl was of the view that the bill contained provisions which were not in line with whatever had been decided in negotiations with the PML-N members of the government.

“The issue should not be hurriedly solved,” he said, adding that he would not let anyone ‘earn profit’ in the name of the Fata .

“As per an agreement reached between then British India and Afghanistan signed in 1893, the present Fata area was declared a buffer zone between the two sides,” Fazlur Rehman said.

He also cautioned that if any decision was taken while ignoring the 1893 agreement, it would draw strong reaction from the neighbouring country, increasing the difficulties of Pakistan.

Opposition Leader in NA Syed Khursheed Shah said that his party would not oppose the bill. “It has been introduced in the house and referred to the committee,” he said.

Shah also tried to diffuse the tense atmosphere in the house. “Why are you [Fazl] so worried; your opinion will be taken,” Shah said.

He said that there was difference of opinion in government ranks on this matter.

The PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on his turn, said difference of opinion in government ranks clearly reflect the seriousness of government on different matters.

“If the government has not abided by its pledge regarding the Fata issue then the JUI-F should part ways in protest,” he proposed to Fazlur Rahman.

Other lawmakers also spoke in favour of the bills moved in the house.

Minister for Law Zahid Hamid introduced “The Tribal Areas Rewaj Bill”, which is aimed at bringing the tribal people into the national mainstream.

Under the bill, proper judicial system will be established wherein the role of the tribal jirga will be duly legalised.

The Fata members said that the tribal people were patriotic Pakistanis and they had always given sacrifices for the country.

The house did not discuss Panama leaks, Dawn leaks and other related matters as was expected.