ISLAMABAD - Activists across party lines yesterday exhibited unprecedented unity demanding merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtukhwa province.

Hundreds of supporters and party leaders of various political forces held a demonstration at D Chowk in the Federal capital demanding of the Federal govt to hand over Fata to the provincial government so that the area people could avail the facilities available to the rest of the citizens.

They said Fata, that has been ruled under the British-era FCR rule, should be merged in KP province so that people could get access to the facilities offered to the residents of the settled areas.

Party leaders of political parties including PPP, Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-Fazal) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) participated in the demonstration.

“We are here today to liberate Fata from the black laws (FCR) introduced by colonial powers. We are here to demand the Centre to cede powers to Khyber Pakhtukhwa and stop remote controlling Fata,” Senior ANP leader and former Information Minister KP Mian Iftikhar Hussain told the participants.

Residents belonging to the volatile Tribal Areas on the occasion chanted slogans ‘Go FCR Go’, ‘Merge Fata in KP’ and ‘Give us rights’ amid tight security. D-Chowk got to its fame last year when PTI staged a three-month long sit-in demanding of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to quit.

However, on Monday, the protest venue was all about tolerance where supporters of different political forces waved their party flags for a common cause — merger of Fata with KP. The activists associated with religious political parties like JI and JUI-F were observed waving flags and chanting slogans along the supporters of secular and liberal forces like the ANP and PPP.

PTI’s Asad Umar told the demonstrators that his party will support the people of FATA ,adding, it was high time to do away with the rules imposed by Britishers and to give a chance to tribal people live under the law of land.

He said that the PTI will support people of Fata whether they want merger with KP or demand a separate province, adding, that it is administratively impossible for the Federal government to rule Fata through a Governor. Ameer JI Sirajul Haq addressed the participants in an emotional way stating that residents of Waziristan in particular and people of other tribal agencies in general had not availed the facilities offered to people in settled areas.

“What is the fault of Fata people that we have deprived them of all basic amenities? They are still bearing the brunt of militancy and have abandoned their native houses for the sake of Pakistan. In return, Pakistan has given nothing to Fata” Senator Sirajul Haq said.

Former MNA and PPP leader Akhunzada Chattan had pulled a large number of supporters from restive Bajaur Agency.

Chattan said people in Bajaur have come into open to bash the callous FCR rule. Chief of Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP) Aftab Sherpao said that the Federal government will not be able to maintain law and order in Fata until the abolition of Frontier Crime Regulation or FCR.

“The FCR is a discriminatory law. Under the rule, the entire clan will bear the brunt for a sin of a single individual. Is this a rule applied in the rest of the country or it has been imposed only in Fata? FCR is no law so it should be immediately abolished,” Sherpao said.

A group of protesters on the occasion insisted they will not return until FATA is merged with KP triggering police to encircle the area but later the participants left the venue. We will not be given our rights until we take refuge here for an indefinite time till our demand is met. We have cried in the past so many times but nobody bothered to reform Fata,” Khalil Jan, a resident of Bajaur Agency, told The Nation on the occasion.