PESHAWAR -  Tribal elders hailing from Khyber Agency have categorically rejected the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

They demanded an elected autonomous FATA Legislative Council to decide the future of the people of tribal region.

While addressing a news conference at press club here on Friday, Haji Bazar Gul, a tribal elder and President of Khyber Union Organization (KUO), a welfare body based in Khyber Agency, said the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not acceptable to the tribesmen.

He demanded a representative council to legislate as per tribal traditions, norms and political culture of the region.

Flanked by the organization’s office-bearers and local tribal elders, Murad Sakhi, Gul Man Shah, Haji Zargoon Shah, Maskeen Shah, Gul Nazar, Shah Nawaz, and Syed Anwar, he said the FATA reforms package announced by incumbent federal government was contrary to tribal customs and traditions.

He said legislations should be made while keeping in view the rich tribal traditions.

The tribal elders called for abolishment of the British-era Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) and curtail of powers of the political agents. Gul also opposed the extension of jurisdiction of Supreme Court and High courts to FATA.

“We want constitutional protection to our traditional tribal jirga, which is as per our norms, customs and traditions,” he stressed.  He said the decision is not acceptable and that may create complications in the future. He said all disputes can only be resolved through traditional tribal Jirga. While keeping in view the destructions in FATA due to prolonged war on terror, Gul demanded the inclusion of FATA in the next National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, along with announcement of a hefty financial package of Rs 100 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

He also demanded early reconstruction of damaged educational and health infrastructure in tribal region.

He also demanded holding of local bodies’ elections in all tribal agencies. He called upon the government to exempt tribal region from all kind of taxes, besides complete abolishment of Customs Act in FATA.

He stressed the need of provision of due share to FATA in the multi-billion dollars, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The tribal elder said such steps can only bring development, otherwise warned decisions taken on the bases political parties wishes cannot change destiny of tribal people, and cannot bring any development in FATA.