ISLAMABAD: Former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has called for the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) while rejecting government stance of ‘mainstreaming the tribal belt instead.
Zardari deplored that the Fata reforms package announced with fanfare in August last year had fizzled out as a political stunt and warned that ignoring the political reforms in the tribal areas would exhaust the patience of people and will be detrimental to national cohesion and integrity.
He said the Rewaj Bill of the government had been rejected by the PPP as they were in favor of merger of Fata in the province of KP.
“The PPP had opened the door of reforms in Fata in 2011 by announcing far-reaching changes in the draconian FCR as well as opening the tribal areas to political activities and jalsas by all political parties. The party will be happy to participate in any endeavor that Fata MPs may devise for pushing for reforms,” he said while talking to a delegation of Fata parliamentarians who called on him at the Zardari House in Islamabad on Friday afternoon.
Zardari said the government had gone back on the reforms package. Several MNAs said they planned to hold demonstrations and hold an All Parties Conference to work out a strategy for merger of the tribal areas with K) and for the reforms’ implementation. They invited the former president to join their effort.
PPP Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said the PPP co-chairman had already asked the party parliamentarians to rejects the proposed Rewaj Act as against the basic human rights and being inconsistent with the goal of Fata’s merger in the province of KP.
Zardari said that the powers of the president to legislate for Fata without the participation of its people and the draconian FCR were two colonial structures which must be demolished by transferring the powers to legislate for Fata to the parliament.
For mainstreaming, Fata needs to be merged with the KP, he said, and recalled that KP’s provincial assembly has passed a unanimous resolution.
The former president said the elected parliamentarians of Fata were also in favor of the merger and all political parties with the exception of two had endorsed the merger. “By and large the people of tribal areas have, on various platforms, called for merger with the province,” he added.
Zardari said the government and those opposing the reforms and merger are doing a great disservice to the nation. “By denying the people of tribal areas their rights and wishes, these elements are playing with fire.”
Zardari also called for strong local governments in Fata for the empowerment of its people. He said that the reforms were announced in August 2016 but it took over eight months for the cabinet to approve in March 17.
“Despite reservations about the package, everyone hailed the move to reform Fata,” he said, adding that the bills brought in the National Assembly the other day negated the reforms process. Jurisdiction of superior courts was not extended to the Fata, as was promised. He said the Rewaj Act, instead of abolishing the FCR, has further strengthened the century-old draconian law.
Zardari said the draft Rewaj Act was never made public despite demands from stakeholders and as a matter of fact the government had brazenly gone back on the promised merger of Fata in the KP. “Now it talks of ‘mainstreaming’ instead of merger,” he said.
The former president said it had also gone back on the promise to empower the people. Neither the Local Government Bill has been shared with political parties nor was it brought before the National Assembly.
“The PPP will not permit the government to roll back the Fata reforms process,” Zardari said.