PESHAWAR  - In order to draw a future line of action on the proposed merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has convened a grand ‘tribal jirga’ today (Saturday).

Talking to The Nation, JUI-F KP Secretary Information Abdul Jalil Jan announced that the tribal jirga would take place at party’s provincial headquarters. The JUI-F chief, tribal elders and parliamentarians are among the prominent speakers. Formal proceedings of the jirga will begin at 11am, he said. He added that JUI-F was not against mainstreaming the tribal areas, but “we want that this step should be taken as per the aspirations of tribal people.”

JUI-F would not budge an inch from its principled stand, Jan said. “Any decision which is about the future status of tribal areas should be taken after taking all the stakeholders on board,” he added.

“The federal government has itself violated a commitment made with JUI-F that tribal people, JUI-F and others will be consulted properly before making any decision regarding Fata’s future status,” he revealed.

Not only the JUI-F, but tribesmen’s genuine representatives have also been ignored prior to the approval, of phase-wise tribal areas merger with KP in the next five-years, from federal cabinet, Jan said. That is why the JUI-F had now convened this tribal jirga to look into this very important issue in the emerging scenario, he added.

“We still have the same stance that the tribal people should be consulted and taken on board on this issue,” he informed. He said that his party would accept what tribal people want. “But we are sure enough that tribesmen are not in favour of the merger,” he added.

On March 2, the federal cabinet had approved recommendations of Fata Reforms Committee suggesting Fata’s integration with KP. Though, being a strong ally of PML-N, the JUI-F chief had strongly rejected the plan and said that the federal government deceived him on Fata’s merger issue.

EQUAL REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN URGED

Speakers at a seminar on Friday demanded equal representation of women in the ongoing reforms process in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). They urged the government to ensure basic education and health facilities in tribal areas besides taking pragmatic measures for women’s social and economic empowerment.

The seminar was organised by Fata Youth Empowerment and Development Association in connection with International Women’s Day at Peshawar Press Club. Notable among the speakers include Mehreen Afridi, chairperson of the association, Bacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation Managing Director Dr Khadim Hussain, Khyber Youth Forum Chairman Amir Afridi, Fata Lawyers’ Forum former president Karim Mehsud, and representatives of civil society, Fata Students’ Federation and Fata Youth Assembly.

The participants were of the view that women participation had been completely denied in the decision making and ongoing reforms process in Fata. They stressed the need to ensure provision of equal rights and opportunities to tribal women to contribute in development progress of their respective tribal agencies.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Hussain said that quota system was the main hurdle in women participation in the development process. He suggested that a girls college and university along with basic health facilities should be set up in Fata. In order to empower women in true sense, the government should ensure that they have equal opportunities in the reforms process,” he said.

While commenting on the proposed Fata reforms, Dr Khadim opposed the proposed Rewaj Act, and asked the government to issue details about the act. He added that tribal women should also be economically and politically empowered, which is the need of the hour.

Mehreen said that women living in Fata remain voiceless and invisible in the reforms process since the process initiated by the reforms commission. While urging the central government to respect aspirations of those living in Fata, including women, she said that women should have equal participation in the reforms process and their economic, social and political rights must be safeguarded.

At the end, all the participants unanimously agreed to establish a joint working group of civil societies, parliamentarians and policymakers to integrate the gender inclusion and women empowerment in the reforms process.