Finally after a year-long debate in the parliament on much-awaited merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the government on Wednesday passed the buck to the next government on the decision regarding the controversial issue.
It is believed that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) made this decision apparently to avoid annoyance of its two allies, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), when general elections are just around the corner. JUI-F emir Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP president Mehmood Khan Achakzai have been strongly opposing the merger plan on the pretext that it is against the will of Fata people. Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Wednesday took the government head on for ‘rushing’ towards merger of the tribal areas with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and termed it “an agenda of foreign countries and organisation”. It is believed that both parties are opposing the merger because they believe new constituencies could negatively affect their votes in the area.
On the other hand, major opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are in favour of the merger. Leaders of PTI are blaming incumbent government for using delaying tactics in this regard. Minister for States and Frontier Region (Safron) retd Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch told the National Assembly on Wednesday that the coming government would execute the merger of tribal areas with KP. Government maintained that not enough days left of the incumbent government to do the job. Tenure of government would expire on May 31 and PMLN leaders are of the view that it would be difficult to complete the Fata merger due to some certain issues. One argument is being presented is that the delimitation of KP Assembly’s constituencies comprising tribal areas will have to be done within the remaining 15 days, which is impossible. Government maintains that many steps have been taken regarding FATA reforms including extension the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to tribal areas. The government had allocated Rs100 billion for development of Fata under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.
If government had worked on the original schedule the deal would have been signed before the end of PMLN’s tenure. But as it was expected ruling party did not take any risk to take steps without nod of its two crucial allies just before the general elections.