ISLAMABAD - The opposition for the eighth consecutive day on Wednesday staged a walkout from the National Assembly proceedings for non-inclusion of Fata reforms bill in the agenda, though government continued efforts to pave way for the legislation.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi yesterday held a meeting with the Fata Supreme Council of Grand Jirga and listened to their point of view on the matter, and there is hope the reforms bill could be presented in the assembly today [Thursday].

The PM shared with the council members government’s point of view and the rationale behind the suggested induction of these areas in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, extension of superior courts’ jurisdiction and abolition of Frontier Crime Regulation.

The meeting was arranged on the demand of Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Fazlur Rehman who in his meeting with PM and army chief the other day had urged the premier to meet with the Fata Supreme Council and allay their concerns before presenting the reforms bill in the assembly.

The JUI-F chief also wanted consultation with legal and constitutional experts before introducing changes in articles 175 and 247 of the constitution, as according to him any unconstitutional decision in haste would create problems for the government in the future.

Sources in the government informed that the Fata reforms bill would most likely to be tabled before the National Assembly today as PM Abbasi has convinced Fata Supreme Council to a great extent.

“Tomorrow morning [Thursday] the issue about the Fata reforms will be resolved,” said Minister for Safron Abdul Qadir Baloch, responding to the concerns raised by the opposition in the national assembly.

“Despite [earlier] assurance, the government side has not mentioned the Fata reforms bill in the agenda,” Opposition Leader in NA Syed Khurshid Shah said at the start of the session.

“This bill should not be thrown out of the agenda, as such a thing has happened in past,” he said, adding that they would not prefer to sit in an empty house.

The speaker, the other day (on Tuesday), had hinted to give good news to the house on Wednesday to end the impasse over the Fata reforms issue.

The opposition soon after the speech of opposition leader left the house in protest.

In the meeting with the Fata Supreme Council, Prime Minister Abbasi was accompanied by Interior Minister Ch Ahsan Iqbal, SAFRON Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, Sartaj Aziz and Barrister Zafarullah.

Besides Maliks and tribal elders, the meeting was also attended by Senator Saleh Shah, Maulana Jamalud Din, Mufti Abdul Shakoor, Ayaz Wazir, Malik Khan Marjan, Malik Nadir Khan and Malik Waris Khan.

Sources in the government confirmed that Prime Minsiter Abbasi would also be meeting Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai to address his concerns on the Fata reforms. PkMAP is demanding a separate province for the Fata people instead of its merger with the KP.

Sources further said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had directed Abbasi to win over the support of both the coalition partners — the JUI-F and the PkMAP — before getting the Fata reforms bill passed from the parliament.

The parliamentarians from the Fata expressed their dismay over the efforts to delay the Fata reforms, and termed the PM’s meeting of Fata Supreme Council, an attempt in this connection.

Speaking in the national assembly, Fata MNA Shah Jee Gul Afridi said that those opposing the Fata’s merger in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were playing in the hands of those who did not want to see those areas come at par with the rest of the country.

Without naming the JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP chief Mehmood Achakzai, he said that by hampering the Fata reforms they were not doing any service to the people of those areas and demanded of the prime minister to take practical steps for the early passage of the Fata reforms bill from the parliament.

Another MNA from the Fata Shahabuddin termed it a golden opportunity to redress the grievances of the people of those areas by inducting them in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He termed the politics of the Fata Supreme Council a conspiracy against the people of those areas, and said that the politics of pressure groups and gangs had already inflicted serious damage to the unity of the nation.

The lawmaker said that all what people of the Fata wanted were equal rights and treatment at par with the people living in the rest of the country.

 

Advocacy for weapons

PkMAP chief Mehmood Achakzai, on a point of order, said the ban on automatic weapons possessed by the people could create problem for them.

“The ban on it would be tantamount to leaving people at the mercy of dacoits,” said Achakzai, argued that most of the people from the KP and Balochistan carry weapon for their safety.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in his first speech as prime minister, had pledged to take action against automatic weapons in the country.

 

Other issues

A treasury benches lawmaker Shaista Pervaiz Malik, on a point of order, raised serious concerns over alleged meeting of the AML chief Sheikh Rashid with two NAB members.

“How a petitioner can meet with the NAB officials, as it needs to be probed,” Malik said, mentioning that this matter needed to be sent to the Cabinet committee to investigate it.

Sheikh Salahuddin from the MQM, on a point of order, raised the matter regarding shortage of water in port city of Karachi.

He linked the water shortage issue with the ongoing construction work carried out a private housing society in the port city.

Salahuddin raised protest against demolition of wedding halls without giving prior notice. “I will not support China cutting but the people had made advance booking of these halls,” he said.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, at the onset of the proceedings, came down hard on Ministry of Safron for not submitting a written reply to a question raised by a member.

“Should I walkout from the house on this matter...Is this how assembly will run. This is the last warning,” he said, adding that strict action would be taken over negligence in future.

MNA Rana Hayat, at the fag end of the proceedings, once again raised the issue of low sugarcane prices. “The government is not paying heed to their sufferings. Why is the government not arranging meeting of all the chief ministers?” he asked.

 

Deadlock persists as Abbasi meets Fata Council

 

Abrar Saeed & Javaid-ur-Rahman