The Senate of Pakistan with the overwhelming majority of 71 votes endorsed the National Assembly’s historic decision to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As many as 229 worthy members of the National Assembly voted in favour of the 31st Constitutional Amendment Bill for the merger.
Law Minister Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk presented the bill in the 56th parliamentary session attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan — who, in a surprise move, also marked his attendance to vote for the merger of Fata with KP.
It is indeed a big day for the people of FATA and PATA, who finally get their rightful status 70 years after opting Pakistan as their homeland. And, all appreciation and a big applause for the parliamentarians and the democratic governance that finally dared to take up the single most important and righteous decision on May 24.
A conflicting opinion also emerged from the Friday session of the Senate when former chairman Senate, Mian Raza Rabbani, while speaking at the floor of the Upper House regretted that the Parliament could not pass the bill at its own will. Without specifying who he was referring to, he said that when the PPP government had wanted to announce Fata reforms, it was prevented from doing so by ‘certain forces’ who did not want the merger back then.
He said the merger could not take place back then despite several attempts by the parliament, but the process started immediately after the issue was raised in a corps commanders’ conference and a meeting of the National Security Council. Raza Rabbani said, “When the intentions of some forces change, the Parliament has to follow suit.”
Before celebrating the historic moment, don’t we need to know if the natives would surely get their rights or is it just to shut the campaign of the PTM?
Senator Rabbani’s statement is not strangely surprising for those who firmly believe that nothing of strategic nature could happen without the nod of the military establishment. Even this fact is known to every layperson as well. So, instead of mourning on the generous nod of the military establishment on the FATA merger with the KP, it should be taken as a positive point as at least all the ‘forces’ were on the same page. The reasons for this ‘love affair’ could be different for the different players.
However, the opposition leader in the Upper House, Sherry Rehman denied the impression that the bill was passed at someone else’ behest. She reminded the House that mainstreaming of FATA was the dream of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was first to form a committee on the issue in the 1970s. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also moved the Supreme Court on the matter.
I don’t know why the people are very satiric about the presence of the PTI chief Imran Khan and his fellow MNAs in the National Assembly session for a few minutes on Thursday. After more than two years of his absence, the PTI chief’s presence in the lower house was actually a great favour to the FATA people that has been written in the parliamentary history of Pakistan though it has cost millions to the national exchequer. His presence was surprising, and leaving the house just after his speech was rude and shameful. The person who is lustfully desperate to become prime minister of Pakistan has no respect for the National Assembly that would elect him in case he gets a majority in the coming elections. More heinous of him and other parliamentarians of his party has been that they were getting all perks and benefits without playing their role in the National Assembly business. Off course, this is not a crime of any sort. However, his historic presence is marked in favour of the FATA merger.
Unfortunately, some of the parliamentarians present in both Houses preferred to stay away from voting in favour of the merger. Every common man is looking for the answer to what refrain them to stay against the merger.
One opinion is that isolated FATA without having the basic constitutional rights was a heaven for all the illegal affairs right from the hideouts for the absconders, abductors, killers and terrorists, and a safe route for illicit trade of drugs and human trafficking, and hatchery of conspiracies against the State of Pakistan. Despite being the central playground for the so-called Jihad-e-Afghanistan (the American proxy war) and the fight against terrorism, the bravery of the Pakistan Army and the locals have written the historically unmatchable courage with the innocent blood and sacrifices.
The much-hyped bill had staunch opposition from two strongest allies of the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). Expressing his opposition to the merger, PkMAP Senator Usman Kakar said the days on which the bill was passed in the lower and upper houses of the Parliament would be remembered in the country’s history as black days.
Before staging the walkout, JUI-F Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that the status of the region was being changed without seeking the consent of the people. He said his party believed that FATA had a separate status and merger decision was being imposed on its people.
While the common natives are jubilantly celebrating the merger, a few are mourning too. Those mourning the dawn of basic rights for the FATA people shall reconsider their vested interests in the larger common good of the natives who finally get the identity of a state.
Before celebrating the historic moment, don’t we need to know if the natives would surely get their rights or is it just to shut the campaign of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM)?
The writer is Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @EmmayeSyed
Published in Daily Times, May 27th 2018.