ISLAMABAD -  The federal cabinet on Tuesday gave a green signal to expedite the Federally-Administrated Tribal Areas’ merger into the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

An official statement issued after the cabinet meeting – chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi here - said approval was granted “to the formation of National Implementation Committee on the Federally-Administrated Tribal Areas Reforms.”

The NIC on Fata Reforms, in a meeting presided by PM Abbasi and attended by army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa last week, had endorsed the Fata’s merger into the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The NIC had agreed that the Fata people would be able to elect 23 members to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly, while the National Assembly seats would be finalised after consultations.

The government has been delaying the implementation of the Fata reforms package to evolve consensus.

Coalition partners, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-Fazl) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), have opposed the package offered by the government.

The government believes there has been enough discussion on the topic with the stakeholders and it was about time to merge the Fata into the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The official statement issued after the cabinet meeting said the defence minister and the Corps Commander, XI Corps, have been included in the high level NIC on the Fata.

The cabinet also approved Medical Devices Rules, 2017 in lieu of Rules, 2015.

Haj (pilgrimage) Policy and Plan, 2018 was also presented before the meeting.

While deciding not to increase Haj dues this year under the government Haj Scheme, the cabinet approved the policy, in principal, with certain amendments.

The Minister for Religious Affairs would brief media on the salient features of the Haj Policy, 2018.

A participant of the meeting told The Nation that Prime Minister Abbasi told his team that Pakistan must look for other options amid tension with the United States.

Addressing the cabinet, the prime minister said Pakistan’s relations with Russia were fast improving, he said.

The premier, he said, reiterated support to the Palestine cause and vowed not to compromise on Pakistan’s principled position.

The prime minister appreciated China’s support as the US clearly showed its tilt towards India.

On Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav’s meeting with his family, Abbasi said it was allowed keeping in view the teachings of Islam and the Eastern culture.

“The PM also asked the ministers to prepare for the general elections as the election year was about to start,” said the participant of the meeting.

He said the overall political situation was discussed during the lengthy meeting.

The cabinet ratified minutes of the meetings of the Economic Coordination Committee held on November 1, 2017, November 13, and November 28.

Minutes of the meetings of the Cabinet Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor held on November 9 and November 17 were also ratified by the cabinet.

The cabinet accorded permission, in principle, to sign the revised memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Ministry of Employment and Labour of the Republic of Korea on sending and receiving of workers under the Employment Permit System, said the statement.

The meeting approved amendment in the Schedule of Federal Investigation Agency Act, 1974.

The amendment aims at bringing the offences of blasphemy and pornography in the ambit of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016, it said.

Observing that the directives issued to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to off-air and later on-air transmission of private TV channels on November 25 and November 26, respectively, as policy directives of the federal government, the meeting accorded ex-post facto approval to the two directives, the statement said.

The cabinet granted ex-post facto approval to the appointment of Muhammad Arshad Khan Jadoon as chairman Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees and also approved granting of MP-1 scale for him.

The appointment has been made for two years, it said.

The meeting approved appointment of Qurban Ali Khan as member technical in Customs Appellate Tribunal Peshawar, Saud Imran Ahmed in CAT Bench-I Lahore and Dr Zulfiqar Ahmed Malik in CAT Bench-I Karachi.

Resignation of Ali Suleman Habib, as director from Pakistan International Airlines Board, was approved.

The cabinet approved appointment of Rear Admiral Zakaur Rehman, as director-general Pakistan Maritime Security Agency.

Amendment in the Guidelines of Prime Minister’s Global Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Programme was also approved.

The cabinet approved amendments in Sales Tax Special Procedure Rules 2007 to provide for (i) allowing exploration and production companies serving as operators in a petroleum concession area to transfer proportionate input tax to other working interest owners, and (ii) exclusion from extra tax chargeable under Rule-58T of Sales Tax Special Procedure Rules 2007 on supply of lubricants to and by lubricating oil marketing companies registered with Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to registered manufacturers for in-house consumption, said the statement.