ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday said the Pakistan People’s Party supported the merger of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In a meeting here with the members of the National Assembly from FATA, Zardari said the PPP will join the FATA MNAs in their demonstration on October 9 in Islamabad in support of their demand for merger and other reforms to bring the tribal areas in the national mainstream.

The delegation led by MNA Shahjee Gul Afridi included MNAs Haji Bismillah Khan, Nasir Khan and Bilal Rehman. Those on the PPP side who attended the meeting included MNA Ejaz Jakhrani, Senator Farhatullah Babar, Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Sardar Ali Khan and Qayum Soomro.

Speaking during the meeting, Zardari said the PPP supported the demand for merger. “Keeping in view the administrative, social, cultural, linguistic, political and geographical conditions merger was the most logical and practical option. Opposing merger defied comprehension and defied logic,” he added.

Zardari also supported the demand that the jurisdiction of Peshawar High Court be extended to FATA. He said that the cabinet first decided to extend the jurisdiction of Peshawar High Court to tribal areas but all of a sudden it was reversed. “If FATA is to be eventually merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa it is common sense that the jurisdiction of PHC be extended,” he added.

He said that when FATA is finally merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa all the cases will then have to be transferred from the Islamabad High Court to PHC and wondered if the implications had been thought over.

The former president also called for changes in the present system that allowed political agents to arbitrarily levy cess, taxes and rahdari (toll tax) and called for replacing it with budgetary allocations to Political Agents for meeting their administrative expenses subject to audit by the Auditor General of Pakistan.