ISLAMABAD -  Former president Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday that the Pakistan People’s Party will not accept anything less than full citizenship rights for the people of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA).

Talking to a delegation of FATA parliamentarians here, Zardari , who is also the PPP co-chairman, said his party will not leave the people of FATA alone.

He denounced the alleged rollback of the FATA reforms process by the government. He said the PPP will not allow the government to impose governor’s rule in the tribal belt.

The delegation included Shahjee Gul Afridi, Sajid Turi and Senator Sajid Turi. PPP FATA chapter President Akhunzada Chattan, Senator Sardar Ali Khan, Provincial Information Secretary PPP Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Political Secretary Rukhsana Bangash were also present.

Zardari said that his party will struggle alongside the people of FATA in their quest for the merger of FATA with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and the reforms .

He deplored that the FATA reforms package announced with fanfare in August last year had fizzled out as a political stunt and warned that ignoring political reforms in the tribal areas would exhaust the patience of the people and will be detrimental to national cohesion and integrity.

Deploring that the government had gone back on the reforms package, Shahjee Afridi said that they planned to hold protest demonstrations and an All Parties Conference to work out a strategy for the merger of tribal areas with KP, and for reforms implementation, and also invited the former president to join their effort.

Zardari called for strong local governments in FATA for the empowerment of its people. He said that the reforms were announced in August 2016 but it took over eight months for the cabinet to approve it.  “Despite reservations about the package everyone hailed the move to reform FATA ,” he said.

“But the bills brought in National Assembly the other day negated the reforms process . Jurisdiction of superior courts was not extended to FATA , as was promised. The Riwaj (customs) Act, instead of abolishing the FCR, has further strengthened the century-old draconian law,” he said.

He said the draft Riwaj Act was never made public despite demands from stakeholders. “As a matter of fact, the government has brazenly gone back on the promised merger of FATA with the KP province. Now it talks of mainstreaming instead of the merger,” he pointed out.

He said that the government had also gone back on the promise to empower people. “Neither the Local Government Bill has been shared with political parties nor brought before the National Assembly. The PPP will not allow the government to roll back the FATA reforms process ,” he said.

Zardari said that the PPP had flung opened the door of reforms in FATA in 2011 by announcing far-reaching changes in the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations as well as opening tribal areas to political activities.

He said that the PPP will be happy to participate in any endeavour that FATA parliamentarians may devise to push for reforms Zardari said that the powers of the president to legislate for FATA without the participation of its people and the draconian FCR were two colonial structures which must be demolished by transferring the powers to legislate on FATA to the parliament.

“For mainstreaming, FATA needs to be merged in the KP,” he said and recalled that the provincial assembly had passed a unanimous resolution.

“The elected parliamentarians of FATA are also in favour of the merger. All political parties with the exception of two have endorsed the merger. By and large, the people of tribal areas have, on various platforms, called for the merger with the KP province,” he said.

Zardari said the government and those opposing reforms and merger were doing a great disservice to the nation. “By denying the people of tribal areas their rights and wishes these elements are playing with fire,” he added.

Meanwhile, PPP leader Senator Rehman Malik called on Zardari to discuss the political situation.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Malik said he briefed the PPP Co-chairman about his Qatar visit where he met with their leaders and attended the Doha forum.

He said the government failed to present Pakistan’s case before the International Court of Justice regarding Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav. “They have made us a laughing stock. They should have shown (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s hate speeches to the court,” he said.

The PPP lawmaker said that Zardari and the party believe the government did not raise the valid points in the ICJ which led to the embarrassment.

 “The PPP and the leadership are very disappointed,” he said.

He said the government should take the case to the United Nations. “If this case was taken to the UN, India would not have gone to the ICJ. I am myself ready to defend Pakistan in this case,” he said.

He said any relief to Jadhav will be an international conspiracy against Pakistan. “The government needs to take this case very seriously,” he said.

Separately, PPP Senator Rubina Khalid said that claim of a change in KP by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan has proved false as the main culprit behind the murder of student Mishal Khan, has not been arrested yet.

In a statement, she said that PTI provincial government in KP was a hurdle in the arrest of PTI Councillor Arif Khan.