Pak’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly passes landmark bill to merge FATA with province
Peshawar: In a historic move, Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly today overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill, paving the way for the merger of the restive tribal region along the Afghan border with the northwestern province, bringing an end to a 150-year-old British-era arrangement.
The bill to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) amends several Articles of the Constitution including Article 1 that defines the territory of Pakistani federation.
The semi-autonomous tribal region was created by British colonizer as a buffer zone to avoid direct conflict with Afghanistan.
The Assembly approved the KP-Fata merger bill, paving way for the merger of the FATA with the province, Dawn reported.
The bill will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six Frontier Regions, to the mainstream and they will be merged with KP, it said.
Tribal people will get representation in the Assembly through the amendment, the report said.
The bill was passed with two-thirds majority, a Constitutional prerequisite for the proposed merger. As many as 92 lawmakers voted in favour while seven member of the provincial assembly used their votes against the bill.
Provincial Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said that local body elections will be held in FATA this year, whereas the general elections will be held next year.
“During a meeting of the FATA Reforms Committee, Chief of Army Staff Gen Javed Qamar Bajwa had asked me to settle the issue of FATA once and for all,” he told fellow lawmakers.
Even though the bill had been passed by both houses of the parliament, Article 239(4) of the Constitution says that the president cannot assent a constitutional amendment bill which affects geographical boundaries of a province without approval by the assembly of that province, the report said.
The session was convened only to give its approval to the historic bill that would erase the colonial-era division between tribal areas and the province.
The semi-autonomous tribal region consists of seven districts – Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan – which stretch along the border with Afghanistan, and became known in the world due to presence of militants who fled the porous border after US forces invaded Afghanistan post-9/11.
These seven districts are home to some eight million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns.
Pakistan forces launched repeated military operation to clear the area of rebels and dismantle their hideouts which were used to launch attack in the country and Afghanistan.
Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser presided over the session which started late due to protests outside the assembly, the report said.
KP Law Minister Imtiaz Shahid tabled the bill amid ruckus as the lawmakers associated with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) as well as disgruntled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf members chanted slogans to register their protests, the report added.