Govt, allies fail to agree on Fata reforms timeline

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Ababsi failed to persuade the government allies on the timeline fixed by the civil and military leadership last week for mainstreaming the country’s tribal areas by taking various actions, including merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) president Mehmood Khan Achakzai stuck to their positions, forcefully opposing the move while asking the government “not to show haste in the matter which is sensitive in nature”.
While the JUI-F chief reiterated the call for holding a referendum in Fata on the issue of merger, PM Abbasi decided to go for another round of consultations with the parties on Thursday, media reported.
That the prime minister informed the parliamentary leaders attending the meeting that the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would take place in May 2019. He said that timely implementation of the proposed reforms was needed for the mainstreaming of Fata, according to the media.
The prime minister had called the meeting of parliamentary heads, which was also attended by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, to take them into confidence on the decisions taken by the National Implementation Committee on Fata Reforms (NICFR) on May 2.
PM Abbasi had earlier informed members of the National Assembly that the NICFR had finalised a “timeline” for various actions required for the mainstreaming of Fata. He had told the house that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was also present at the NICFR meeting.
He said the PML-N government wanted to see implementation of the Fata reforms package before completion of its five-year term on May 31. However, he added, he wanted to have broad-based consultations on the issue with all parties having representation in parliament.
Mr Abbasi announced that the Agency Development Fund in Fata had already been abolished and the local government elections in Fata would be held before October. He, however, said he wanted to develop a consensus on the issue of elections (for Fata representatives) of the National Assembly and the provincial assembly, hinting at the proposed merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Besides, he said, both the National Assembly and the Senate had already passed the bill seeking to extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high court to Fata.
The prime minister as telling the participants of the meeting that the government was “ready to go ahead without any delay and implement the reforms agenda as soon as possible”.
According to the media, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi criticised the government for delaying the implementation of Fata reforms which had been announced about two years ago.
Mr Qureshi also criticised the government for its failure to take its allies on board on the issue.
Those who attended the meeting included Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah (PPP), Housing and Works Minister Akram Durrani and Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman (JUI-F), Aftab Sherpao (QWP), Naveed Qamar (PPP), Dr Farooq Sattar (MQM), Ghulam Ahmed Bilour (ANP), Sahibzada Tariqullah (JI) and Tariq Bashir Cheema (PML-Q).
Talking to media, Mr Qureshi said the government was not serious in the implementation of the Fata reforms package. He said Maulana Fazl and Mr Achakzai had been blocking its implementation and regretted that they were still doing the same. He asked how could a government whose term was about to end in three weeks complete a task which it had been unable to do in the past two years.
He said delay in the implementation of Fata reforms was causing a sense of deprivation among the area people and such a situation could be exploited by anti-state elements.
The federal cabinet had in its meeting in March last year approved a set of steps to be taken for the proposed merger of Fata with KP and a 10-year reforms package to bring the tribal region on a par with other parts of the country.
The implementation of the Fata reforms package had earlier been stopped by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif following its strong opposition by the two government allies — JUI-F and PkMAP.