ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly in Wednesday’s proceedings witnessed heated debate on Fata reforms as JUI-F chief Fazlur Rahman lashed out at the government for allegedly betraying him on the issue of Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The House in the five-hour proceeding saw discussions on Fata reforms , resignations of Zafarullah Jamali, the opposition’s withdrawal on cut motions etc.

The House also repeatedly witnessed power outages as the lower house fell into darkness during the speeches of MNAs. The lawmakers mainly from the opposition parties raised slogans of ‘shame, shame’, whenever there was a power breakdown.

Taking the floor, Fazlur Rahman lashed out at the government for backing off from its promise for not taking immediate steps for the merger of Fata with KP. “It was the promise not to immediately go for Fata merger,” Fazl said. He added that the Fata reforms were the agenda of international organisations. He criticised the government for dealing with the Fata issue unfairly and irrationally. “I am sure not more than three Fata MNAs would be in favour of the merger,” he claimed. The JUI-F chief also criticised the possible measures for changing the status of the area (Fata).

Minister for State and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch responded to the concerns raised by opposition and government’s allied partner and opposition members. He assured that there was no plan for immediate merger of Fata with KP. “We (government) had promised the merger of FATA within five years not after five years,” he said. He said that there would be no change in the status of tribal areas in the next general elections.

About FATA reforms, he told the House that the FATA members would be elected on twelve seats. “We are only bringing an amendment to decide the representation of FATA in the assembly,” he said and mentioned the steps to abolish the black laws such as FCR.

Baloch said the federal government was not in a plan to divert from its development package. “Funds will be provided according to the promise made with the people of FATA,” he said. The minister also claimed that 97.5 percent of IDPs have returned to their areas. “Our committee on FATA reforms package visited all the tribal agencies where majority of the people there supported the merger with KP,” he said.

FATA MNA Bilalur Rahman, taking the floor, claimed that majority of the tribal area people were not in favour of Fata reforms .

PTI’s Arif Alvi supported the government for FATA reforms including merger of FATA with KP. PPP’s Azra Fazal Pecheuho supported the government’s stance for the merger of FATA with KP. The government side is expected to bring amendments on FATA reforms bill today (Thursday).

Foreign Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said that Pakistan had recalibrated its foreign policy framework to further strengthen its relations with the regional countries.

Winding up debate on the cut motions of his ministry, he said that the biggest achievement was that economic relation with the time-tested friend China has deepened as a result of China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) project.

He added Pakistan’s relations with the Central Asian states had further improved and projects like CASA-1000 and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) will connect Pakistan with these countries.

Khan said Pakistan was consistently engaged with Afghanistan to remove misunderstanding and improve the bilateral relations. He said that both the countries had launched an action plan for peace and solidarity.

About Kashmir issue, the foreign minister said that Pakistan had strongly advocated the long standing dispute at all international fora. He said permanent membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was also a big achievement of Pakistan.

He added, “Our relations with Russia have also improved. We have signed the first defense pact and also held joint military exercises.”

Earlier, the opposition parties including PPP-P, PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami withdrew their cut motions on these demands of grants while those moved by the MQM were rejected by the House. The opposition parties withdrew demands in protest, saying the government had no mandate to present one-year budget.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Khwaja Sohail Mansur, on the second consecutive day, criticised government for not taking proper action against the FIA director general. “Notices were issued against me and my family (wife) by the FIA DG...I demand a ruling from the chair on it,” said the MQM’s MNA. “Why action was not taken, Should I ask business community to stop business here in Pakistan,” he said.