PM, COAS try to win over Fazl on Fata reforms

ISLAMABAD –  Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javid Bajwa on Tuesday met JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman to win over his support for Fata reforms.

Sources in the government confirmed that Fazl gave conditional support as he wanted the PM to have a word with the Supreme Council of Fata Grand Jirga to listen to their concerns on the matter.

Prime Minister Abbasi, along with his National Security Advisor Lt-Gen (r) Nasir Khan Janjua and Federal Minister for SAFRON Lt-Gen (r)Abdul Qadir Baloch, had also met with Fazl Monday night at his residence to convince him on Fata reforms but Fazl had agreed to back the move conditionally.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Gen Bajwa shared military’s point of view on the issue. He told the chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam that after the flushing out of militants from the tribal areas through the military operation, development and introduction of reforms in these areas would be essential to block the way of militants resurgence.

Fazlur Rehman shared his concerns and reservations over the merger of Fata into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without the approval of the people of these areas. He said that introduction of reforms in these areas without following the due constitutional course would create problems in future.

Sources in the government informed that it was feared that the delay in the introduction of reforms in the area would generate resentment among the residents who had suffered enormously in the military operation and this could result in resurgence of militancy in these areas.

So both the civil and military leadership of the country were in total agreement on the point that Fata reforms must be introduced at the earliest to secure the gains of the military operation by engaging the residents of these areas in development and mainstreaming the area.

Sources said that JUI-F was not averse to the reforms in principle but it sought to delay the process until after the general elections as it fears the merger would bring it political disadvantage.

The religio-political party therefore has been demanding wider consultation with the people of these areas over the merger issue. And now JUI-F chief has raised the issue of consultation with legal and constitutional experts on Articles 175 and 247 of the constitution which would be amended when Fata reforms bill would be tabled before the Parliament.

Talking to media after the meeting with PM and COAS at prime minister’s parliament chamber, JUI-F chief said he had shared his concerns on Fata reforms with them and the prime minister had agreed to meet with Supreme Council of Fata Grand Jirga. He said the PM had also agreed to have input from constitutional experts on the reforms package.

Sources in the Parliament said the JUI-F would have to show flexibility on Fata issue if it wants the revival of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, as a key component of the alliance – Jamaat-i-Islami – wanted the merger move to go ahead without any further delay.

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