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A landmark development

In a landmark development, the National Assembly on Thursday approved a much-awaited constitutional amendment bill regarding the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the majority.

The 31st amendment bill was tabled by Law Minister Mahmood Bashir Virk in a historic session called after a parliamentary committee agreed upon the draft of the bill despite resistance from Jamat-e-Ulema Islam-F and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party. 229 members of the assembly voted in favour of the introduction of the bill while 11 others voted against it. The bill also seeks to amend Articles 51 and 106, which specify the number of seats allocated to each of the provinces. The strength of the Senate will reduce from 104 to 96 members as Fata will no longer have separate representation, while the seats of National Assembly will reduce from 342 to 336. The KP assembly will now have 145 seats, including 115 general, 26 reserved for women and four for minorities. Fata will have 21 seats in the KP Assembly, including 16 general, four for women and one reserved for non-Muslims. Articles 246 and 247 will be amended ending the control of the president on the Fata.

The parliamentary session observed a higher attendance of the lawmakers as members of opposition parties, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), took part in the major decision passionately. PTI chief Imran Khan, a big advocate of Fata merger, also reached the NA after nearly two years to take part in the landmark event.

Upper house of the parliament on Friday also passed the bill by an overwhelming 71-5 vote. Soon after the announcement of the results, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani greeted the nation in general and Fata people in particular over passage of the historic bill.

Though amendment has been passed from lower and upper house of the Parliament, it is required to get two-thirds vote from KPK Assembly. As per Article 239(4) of the Constitution, the president cannot assent a constitutional amendment bill which affects geographical boundaries of a province without approval by the assembly of that province. If the bill does not get through the KP Assembly, then the fate of Fata merger will be in the hands of new representatives to be elected in the coming general elections.

People of tribal areas expressed jubilation over the historic development as amendment bill will bring prosperity and stability after years of lawlessness, war and the subsequent destruction. Merger of Fata is actual freedom for the local people and it would pave the way for progress in the northwestern areas of the country. Tribal people will get rid of from the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) that was being considered a black law dating back to the colonial era.

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