Islamabad - Expressing his frustration over delay in the implementation of recommendations of Fata reforms committee, parliamentary leader Haji Gul Afridi vowed to rally in Islamabad on March 12.

“On February 6, we announced the date for rally at a gathering of tribesmen in the Convention Centre; thus, there is no need to apply for a formal permission from the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration,” the Fata leader told The Nation on Monday. Earlier this month, Afridi had announced a rally of tribesmen and political parties supporting the merger of the Fata with KP on 12 March. He said Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan will lead the protest from Peshawar to Islamabad while the main opposition parties including the Pakistan People’s Party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, the Qaumi Watan Party and the Tribal Alliance will join in.

Afridi said that he was also planning to host an all-party conference to muster support for the rally, and added that he would announce the date in a couple of days. He announced the protest rally after the federal government dropped the Fata issue from the agenda of the cabinet meeting, and later, announced carrying out more consultations with stakeholders about Fata reforms.

Asked if the federal government completed the consultation process and prospect of placing the Fata reforms package on the agenda of the cabinet, he said: “I am told that the prime minister has asked the relevant quarters to bring the issue to the agenda of next cabinet meeting expected to be held early next month.”

He said that schedule of the rally remained intact.

Since parties like JUI-F and Pkhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party which are in coalition with the ruling PML-N in the Centre and Balochistan have shown their reservations over the matter, some lawmakers boycotted the Tribal Convention organised by Afridi and other MPs from Fata.

On the other hand, sources in the federal government said that the demand of Fata’s merger could be accepted at a time when the sixth census was about to begin in the country including Fata.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had constituted a special committee headed by Adviser of Foreign Affair Sartaj Aziz to recommend reforms to streamline Fata.

The committee firmed up a set of recommendations which include replacement of the Frontier Crimes Regulation with Rewaj Act to give Fata residents the right to appeal against any decision in high courts.

The recommendations also envisage Fata’s merger with KP after five years and holding of a direct election to bring the residents at par with other parts of the country.

Maqbool Malik