ISLAMABAD -  Anticipating stiff reaction from opposition parties against any further delay in the legislation on FATA reforms, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was out to convince its coalition partners – Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party - to bring flexibility in their stance regarding merger of tribal belt into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources in PML-N informed The Nation that the government was delaying the legislation on FATA reforms only to appease the coalition partners, which were averse to immediate merger of these areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and wanted its deferment beyond next general elections.

Whereas all the opposition parties, including the FATA parliamentary group, wanted introduction of reforms in FATA, including bringing it in mainstream politics, abolition of draconian laws prevalent in these areas since colonial days and extension of judicial system to these areas and refurbishing of the devastated infrastructure due to operation against militants.

Opposition parties were on boycott of the National Assembly session for dropping out of FATA Reforms Bill from the agenda and made it clear that till the tabling of the bill in the National Assembly they would continue their boycott.

While on the other hand, Jamaat-i-Islami had given ultimatum to government to pass the FATA reforms by December 31 otherwise the party would stage sit-in in the federal capital and would lock down the government offices including the President and Prime Minister houses till acceptance of their demands.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman though denied any role in dropping out of the FATA Reforms Bill from the National Assembly agenda but said that they would not let the reforms imposed on the people of FATA.

He proposed that people of the tribal areas should be consulted before taking such structural changes in the status of these areas. He demanded holding of referendum before taking the decision of FATA merger in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and said that the tribal people should also be given the option of separate province as in this way their identity would be kept intact.

Parliamentary sources informed that JUI-F was averse to the merger of FATA in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as in this way the party grip on these areas through vast network of seminaries would be diluted and that was the reason they were opposing the move.

Right now the mosques and seminaries are playing a pivotal role in political discourse in these areas and as JUI-F is having a vast and organised network of seminaries in these areas so it would lose hold on these areas which right now they have.

These sources said that on the other hand Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party was advocating unity among the Pashtuns of tribal areas and Balochistan and the mainstreaming of these areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would greatly damage its cause.

It was because of this point that PkMAP was in favour of the option of separate province for FATA people instead of its merger in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as this move would support their cause of some special status for the Pashtuns inhabiting in Balochistan.

FATA Senator Aaurangzeb Khan criticising both JUI-F and PkMAP said that they would not let these parties play with the fate and future of FATA people.

Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Moulana Fazlur Rehman were nobody to decide about the fate of people facing multiple problems due to militancy, mass scale displacement, illiteracy and backwardness and above all the draconian laws like FCR prevalent in these areas since colonial days.

Another FATA MNA Shah Jee Gul Afridi said that the people of FATA would not accept anything less than the merger of these areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in this connection all mainstream political parties including PPP, JI, PTI, ANP and QWP were on the same page.