FATA Merger with KPK: Dawn of A New Era

The long-awaited merger in the history of Pakistan.

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FATA Merger with KPK: Dawn of A New Era: May 2018 a landmark bill was passed in KPK assembly that approved the KP-FATA merger, paving way for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This bill was passed with two-thirds majority – a constitutional prerequisite for the approval of the proposed merger. A total of 92 lawmakers voted for the bill against seven that voted against. As a result of the bill’s approval by the provincial assembly all seven agencies and six frontier regions will become part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Thereby, KPK assembly will then represent the people of FATA as they do for the rest of the province. This amendment will also make sure that local body elections are held in the regions so as they can get in line with the political system of the rest of the country.

The bill was tabled by the previous law minster of KPK as “the bill seeking a merger of FATA with the province” in the provincial assembly. The bill was opposed by lawmakers associated with Jamiat Ulema e Islam_Fazal (JUI-F) and some disgruntled members of the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI).

FATA Merger with KPK: Dawn of A New Era

They objected on the grounds that before passing any such bills of the said merger a referendum should be held in FATA asking the will of the people concerned. However, the approval of the bill, just before the end of the five year term of PTI in a session that was solely convened for the voting of this bill, erased the colonial era’s divide between the province and the tribal area.

Opposition to the Bill of FATA Merger with KPK

Party workers, including those from Fata, had gathered outside the KP assembly since early morning and had threatened to put padlocks on the assembly gates so that no one could make it inside the premises for the session that was scheduled for 2pm. After hours of negotiations and resorting to baton-charge, police had managed to control the workers and clear them from the entrance to the assembly building.

“We will not let the FATA merger bill be approved,” the protesters had chanted as they started burning tires on the road leading to the assembly. District administration and the police had persistently tried to convince the protesters to vacate the area in front of the main entrance and continue their protest outside the back gate of the assembly. According to reports, the protesters pelted policemen and media vehicles with stones.

The complete merger of FATA into the mainstream system of Pakistan will take around five years, however, the first practical step towards it is an achievement in itself.

On the national assembly front the bill has two main problems to tackle before making its way to being approved: the Panama leaks and formidable opposition from one of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s closest allies, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

No doubts regarding the second were left when the turbaned Maulana warning to ‘jam’ everything, if reform laws were allowed to go through, during last week’s National Assembly session convened specifically to discuss Fata reforms.

Subsequently, the PPP has not only voiced its opposition to the Rewaj Act, but wants a clear cut statement on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) merger with Fata. These were the obstacles that the reform procedure had to go through before its approval at the national level.

However, regardless of the delay caused to the reforms procedure, but nonetheless the bill did make its way approval from all assembles, the national and the provincial, before the election of 2018.

Merger versus Mainstreaming

This is where the complexity lies. The reforms plan recommends electing parliamentarians from FATA to the KP assembly during the 2018 election, thus, effectuating the merger with KP in the duration of a year. Further, without actually giving control to KP, it calls for mainstreaming the region “after five years”.

For its part, the KP government insists that after an amendment to the Constitution, it should be allowed to decide the pace and course of the transition process leading to a seamless merger.

Political and Electoral Integration

By far the most pressing challenge, legislation for electoral integration is yet to be made. Recommendations include representation from the tribal region in the KP assembly in the 2018 elections. That said, the government would need to wait for the outcome of the national population census — resulting in the delimitation of national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies, including those in Fata — before going ahead with electoral integration.

The tricky part is how this will be achieved. How can Fata remain within the ambit of Federally Administered Tribal Areas and still be able to elect representatives to the KP assembly without the executive authority of the (KP) province actually extending to those areas? What impact will this have on representation in the provincial assembly, the National Assembly and the Senate?

Other than having Fata representatives in its provincial assembly, KP will have no control over the political and administrative affairs of Fata. This is an anomaly that would need to be overcome through amendments in Article 1, Article 59 and Article 106 of the Constitution. But so far there is no indication of that happening.

Directorate of Transition and Reforms for FATA Merger with KPK

One of most critical recommendations involves the establishment of a dedicated unit for implementation. Instead of a temporary organization overseeing the integration process, the KP government wants to lead.

Although there is general agreement among the KP government and the federation on the course and broad contours of the reform agenda, the disagreement is only on the timeframe and certain issues pertaining to legislation and administrative measures.

Regardless, of all the challenges this merger brought it still is a landmark bill that initiated a new era of demolishing the last tell tales of the colonial rule. The complete merger of FATA into the mainstream system of Pakistan will take around five years, however, the first practical step towards it is an achievement in itself. We are going to witness the FATA Merger with KPK in coming years.



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