The case of Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (FATA) merger is yet to be solved. The moment the incumbent Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi came to power, he vowed not only to ensure consensus on the issue of the merger, but he also pledged to implement the FATA reforms bill approved by the Cabinet in March last year. In the latest round of dialogue on FATA merger, Khaqan Abbasi failed to persuade his allies on the question of incorporation.
While Fazl-ur-Rehman and Mahmoud Khan Achakzai think that the merger should not be made in haste for it is a matter of sensitive nature, they do not say anything of the “sensitivities” involved in the process. The argument that the merger is a “sensitive issue” is just a delaying tactic if they do not bring the “sensitivities” before the public. Furthermore, the failure on the part of the ruling party, i.e. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) to create a consensus on its tabled bill shows that it is falling in the trap of political opportunism. In short, the ruling party lacks a principled position on making FATA part of KPK.
PM’s words to the parliamentarians that the National Implementation Committee on Fata Reforms (NICFR) had a finalised timeline for mainstreaming FATA are proving a promise unfulfilled because of his inability to persuade his allies. It is instead a bit strange that opposition is supporting a government bill, but the party with a majority in National Assembly is confused on how to go ahead with the proposal on mainstreaming the area.
It will be better for Mr Abbassi to admit that his party has failed in achieving the task of merging FATA with KP. Attempts of covering his failure by saying that he wants to develop a consensus on the issue of election cannot hide the ruling party’s incompetency to convince its allies in the house. Instead, the delay is nothing but giving in to the unexplained reluctance of Fazal-ur-Rehman and Mahmoud Achakzai.
Furthermore, all the criticisms of the members of the opposition are valid. There is not a single point made by the opposition that can be dismissed on merit. And as far as Mr Achakzai and Mr Fazal Rehman’s reluctance is concerned, they are forgetting that their opposition to mainstreaming of FATA means denying people their access to High Court and Supreme Court for their rights. Extending the jurisdiction of superior judiciary in the region is the most significant benefit of mainstreaming a region where peoples lives are managed under rules made during colonial times.
If the consultations have led to any progress over the issue, people are eager to hear it from the government.