PESHAWAR - Amidst opposition from Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl lawmakers, the Khyber -Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Sunday passed the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Reforms Bill, 2018 with a two-thirds majority, paving the way for tribal areas merger into KP province.
The bill, which has already been approved by both National Assembly and Senate, was tabled by Provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi in the provincial assembly which met with Speaker Asad Qaiser in the chair.
A day before the completion of its five years term on May 28 today (Monday), the KP Assembly was called to meet on Sunday to approve the historic 31st Constitutional Amendment Bill 2018.
KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak also attended the special session.
The bill was approved with more than two-thirds majority as 92 members in the House of 124 voted in favour of the bill, which required 83 votes to secure a two-thirds majority, while only seven MPAs from the JUI-F, which has been opposing Fata-KP merger from day-one, voted against the bill. Political parties that favoured the bill included the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Jamat-e-Islami, the Awami National Party (ANP), the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Taking the floor after the approval of the bill, CM Khattak thanked the people of tribal areas who struggled for bringing themselves into the mainstream. “Under the FCR, the tribal people had suffered a lot, now, they would have the same rights that are being enjoyed by the people of other parts of the country,” Khattak told the House. He said that local bodies’ polls will be held in Fata this year while elections for the provincial assembly seats for the tribal belt will be held next year.
“I am wondered why PkhMAP chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai, whose party is just limited to certain districts of Balochistan, is opposing the merger of Fata into KP,” he asked adding, “more I am wondering why is Afghanistan complaining against this merger as Afghanistan has nothing to do with Fata.”
He said that “in the very first bill there was no mention of PATA (Provincially Administered Tribal Areas). I am unaware how it was included in the 31st Constitutional Amendment Bill. Khattak said that he would take the issue with the federal government to exempt PATA from tax net for next 10 years. He said that the federal government should announce a good financial package for PATA instead of bringing it in the tax net as the area has also been badly affected by terrorism.
Opposition Leader in KP Assembly Maulana Lutfur Rehman, who is the younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman whose JUI-F is opposing Fata merger with the province, said that this bill was unacceptable to the tribal people as well as his party and that was why they have decided to continue their opposition on all fronts in the future as well. “If the Kashmiri people are asked for their choice why don’t we ask the tribal people whether or not they want to be part of the province,” he questioned.
PML-N Parliamentary Leader in the KP Assembly Sardar Aurangzeb Nalota said that “today is a historic day not only for the tribesmen but also for Pakistan”. He said that the PML-N always worked for the peoples’ uplift and it did it again by mainstreaming Fata today.
Welcoming the passage of the bill, QWP Parliamentary Leader Sikandar Sherpao said that “despite the fact that we had missed several opportunities in the past to make Fata as part of the province, it came late but not too late”. ANP’s Sardar Hussian Babak said that “today is a big day in the history of tribal people, as they are now part of the province and they would now play a vital role in the progress and development of their people and the province as well”.
PPP’s Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha alleged that it would have been better if the JUI-F had not wasted much time on enforcement of Shariah in the country and it would have been equally better had it not wasted its time on opposing the Fata merger with the KP.
KP Provincial Minister for Public Health and Engineering Shah Farman said that he had always backed unity among Pakhtun ranks. “I want to see all Pakhtuns on one platform. I have always been the supporter of mainstreaming Fata, and this dream is now becoming true.”
The bill will now be sent to the president for final approval. Following the provincial assembly’s approval, the landmark bill will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six Frontier Regions, to the mainstream and they will be merged with KP. The tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly through the amendment.
Later, the KP Assembly also passed a resolution unanimously asking the federal government to exempt Provincially Administered Tribal Areas from taxes for next 10 years.
KP Assembly passes Fata bill with two-thirds majority