PESHAWAR: A crucial session of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was held on Sunday to pass a bill for the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the province despite strong protest by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F).
KP Law Minister Imtiaz Qureshi tabled the bill before the House which was passed by a two-thirds majority. The bill was passed with eighty seven votes in favour and six against. Speaker Asad Qaiser presided over the session delayed due to protests outside the assembly.
KP Chief Minister asked those opposing the bill to unite to those supporting it. He said that the local bodies elections will be held in FATA this year, whereas general elections will be held next year.
Both Senate and National Assembly have already passed the historic 31st Constitutional Amendment paving the way for merger of FATA with KP.
Parliamentary leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in KP Assembly Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha, Awami National Party (ANP) Sardar Hussain Babak and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Sikandar Hayat Sherpao expressed hope that with the merger of FATA will usher a new era of development and prosperity in tribal areas.
They termed the passage of the bill by both Houses of parliament and KP Assembly as a historic moment in the history of the nation and tribal people. They congratulated the law makers and tribal people on achieving this land mark.
Meanwhile, Governor KP Iqbal Zafar Jhagra congratulated the nation over the passage of FATA merger bill by the provincial assembly. In his message, he lauded the approval of the bill and said the entire nation is happy on this historic day.
Jhagra said the merger will not only remove the sense of deprivation of tribesmen, but also help the people of FATA to play their active role for the progress and prosperity of the motherland. He said the history will always remember this historic step of the National Assembly and KP Assembly.
There was ruckus in the assembly as lawmakers associated with JUI-F and several disgruntled members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chanted slogans to register their protests.
Protests by JUI-F
Earlier dozens of JUI-F workers assembled outside the provincial assembly in a bid to disrupt the session. Chanting slogans against the merger, a number of protesters attempted to barge into the assembly by climbing its main gate. However, a strong contingent of police present inside and outside the assembly foiled their bid.
JUI-F had earlier announced to stage protest to pre3empt the passage of the constitution amendment bill that erases the colonial-era division between the tribal regions and the province.
After the provincial assembly’s approval, the landmark bill will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six frontier regions, to the mainstream and will be officially merged with KP.
Tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly through the amendment. The number of seats in KP Assembly will increase to 145 from existing 124. Fata will be granted 16 general seats, four seats for women and one seat for non-Muslims in KP Assembly.
Elections on these provincial legislature seats shall be held within one year after the general elections 2018. The amendment reduces the number of seats in the National Assembly from 342 to 336.
The members of the National Assembly from Fata to be elected in the 2018 election shall continue till dissolution of the Lower House. According to the constitutional amendment, the number of seats of Senate will be reduced to 96 from existing 104. The existing members of the Senate from FATA shall continue till expiry of their respective terms of office.
The constitution amendment also envisages amendments in article 246 and repeals article 247 which place the tribal areas under the command and control of president.