As much Prime Minister Abbasi may stress that the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is not political, he should accept the fact that it has become political, and that delays with the merger on behalf of his party convey a strong political message to the country.
In such a sensitive issue, it is evident that opposition parties, particularly those which have influence in KPK, will opportunitise on the government’s delay in doing something about the merger. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a huddle on Saturday decided to start a protest movement against, what it said, the ‘delaying tactics’ of the government to merge FATA into KPK and it is most likely that the protest movement would start with a ‘long march’. Awami National Party (ANP) president warned the federal government that there would be severe consequences, if the merger did not occur before the 2018 elections.
The FATA merger to KPK has been agreed upon almost unanimously among parties; along with PTI and ANP, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) all support the demand for the merger. PML-N has put up a facade of reluctantly admitting that they supported the merger too, and the terms of it was in “works”; however, no definite statement in such a pressing issues clearly conveys that the delay is not just procedural.
The only notch in the belt is JUI-F’s chief, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, an ally of PML-N, whose contention on the papers is that people of FATA were not given a voice. However, given that FATA is being governed under the brutal FCR, and groups in FATA are pressing for the merger, this is not likely. Now, even Rehman has softened to the merger proposition, on the face of overwhelming pressure.
The government needs to preempt any more destabilization by sorting this issue quickly.