Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government desires to see implementation of the Fata reforms package — aimed at mainstreaming of the country’s tribal areas — before completion of its five-year term on May 31.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly at the fag end of the opening day of the budget discussion on Wednesday, the prime minister disclosed that the National Implementation Committee on Fata Reforms, which met earlier in the day, had taken a number of key decisions and finalised the “timeline” for various actions required to be taken for mainstreaming of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Mr Abbasi, whose announcement overshadowed the nearly two-hour long budget speech of Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, disclosed that he was coming directly to the house after attending the meetings of the Fata reforms committee and the National Security Committee and said he would soon take the parliamentary leaders into confidence on these decisions.
The prime minister said he wanted to have broad-based consultations on the issue of elections (for Fata representatives) of the National Assembly and the provincial assembly, hinting at the proposed merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
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Amidst desk-thumping by the treasury members, Mr Abbasi announced that the Agency Development Fund had been abolished from today (Wednesday).
“We want to complete all the modalities within four weeks and all the parties should be on board in this regard as we want to do all this with consensus,” he said.
The prime minister’s speech was centred on consultations on the timeline for implementation of the Fata reforms package as well as the mainstreaming of the tribal areas, creating confusion whether he meant completing the consultation process or mainstreaming the tribal areas by May 31.
Mr Abbasi said that during the meeting of the Fata reforms committee, which was also attended by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, they had prepared a “timeline” for taking various steps towards mainstreaming of Fata and he would soon take all the parliamentary leaders and other stakeholders into confidence in this regard.
He said the meeting had decided that the local government elections in Fata would be held “before October” this year so that the people living in the tribal areas could get their representation. He said that they would “finalise (modalities for) the elections of the National Assembly and provincial assembly in consultation with all the parties and the opposition leader” to avoid any controversy.
The prime minister said that both the National Assembly and the Senate had already passed the bill seeking to extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high court to Fata.
Acknowledging the sacrifices of the personnel of law enforcement agencies, civilians and the locals, he said Fata mainstreaming should be implemented as there were no two opinions as all the political parties and the people of Pakistan were on one page over the issue.
Mr Abbasi said that in terms of development, Fata would be brought on a par with other parts of the country and for that purpose, in addition to the current allocation, Rs1,000 billion would be required for development in Fata over the next 10 years.
The government was committed to providing the required funds for that purpose, he said, adding that some matters were related to the National Finance Commission Award while others might need the approval of the Council of Common Interests.
The prime minister said he had visited Miramshah in Fata with the army chief on Monday where law and order had been restored with the efforts and sacrifices of the army.
According to sources, the meeting of the Fata reforms committee was attended by Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz, the governor and chief minister of KP, Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and other civil and military officials. The meeting decided to immediately abolish the political agent tax collection.
Besides this, the sources said, it had also been decided that the federal government would allocate budget for each tribal agency. The meeting also decided that the collective and territorial responsibility would go phase-wise starting immediately with direct policing through Levies in urban centres which would gradually be extended with recruitment and training of the law enforcement personnel.