PESHAWAR: The nail-biting saga of the British-era law concluded with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) finally getting merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the provincial assembly passed the landmark Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Bill 2018 on Sunday.
With the passage of the bill, the KP government’s administrative authority will be extended to the newly merged 27,220-square-kilometre territory once President Mamnoon Hussain gives his assent to the amendment.
After a long time, the visitors’ and media galleries were packed, with parliamentarians from Fata and KP as well as other politicians in attendance to witness the passage of the historic constitutional amendment by the assembly. Amendment to Article 246 of the Constitution provided that Fata shall stand merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
With over a two-thirds majority, the assembly passed the amendment bill, which was presented by KP Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Imtiaz Shahid.
Ninety-two of 124 MPAs vote for the legislation; JUI-F opposes move; legislators from Malakand division put forth three demands
In the 124-memebr house, 92 lawmakers cast vote in favour of the bill. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party and Qaumi Watan Party supported the amendment bill.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) not only opposed the Fata-KP merger inside the house where its seven lawmakers opposed the bill, but its workers also made botched attempts outside the assembly building to disrupt the proceedings. The unruly workers made attempts to scale the boundary wall of the assembly building.
Before the proceedings began, parliamentary leaders and lawmakers from Malakand division put their heads together in the speaker’s chamber to remove confusion over the merger of Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) and subsequent withdrawal of relaxation in taxation and duties. The lawmakers sought a guarantee from the government to approve Rs100 billion package per year; provision of relief in all federal and provincial taxes for the next 10 years; and promulgation of the Shariat Nizam-i-Adl Regulation in the form of an ordinance or an act of the parliament.
Meanwhile, in the visitors’ galleries there were rumours that the irritants on Pata issues would delay the passage of the amendment bill till Monday. MPAs from Malakand were demanding a firm guarantee that the federal government would not withdraw relaxation in the taxes.
However, sanity prevailed after a unanimous resolution was passed by the house to address reservations of the lawmakers from Malakand division comprising seven districts.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak gave the credit for the Fata-KP merger to Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. “During the last meeting in Islamabad, Gen Bajwa told me that Mr Khattak you would not leave the meeting unless the merger is effected today,” Mr Khattak recalled.
“No despotic ruler can do to its people what has happened with the people of tribal areas during the last 100 years,” the chief minister said.
JI’s parliamentary leader in the assembly Inayatullah Khan said that like Fata, Malakand also was less developed and badly affected by militancy. For this reason, he added, the federal government should give Rs100 billion package annually for the region. He said the people of Malakand welcomed Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but insisted that the federal government should not abolish special status of Pata.
In his speech, KP Minister for Information Shah Farman expressed the hope that not only the Pakhtun-dominated areas of Balochistan but also of Afghanistan would be included in KP.
With the passage of the bill, the strength of the Senate will drop from 104 to 96 members as Fata will no longer have separate representation in the upper house of the parliament. Likewise, the number of seats in the National Assembly will be cut to 336 from 342.
The KP Assembly will have 145 seats comprising 115 general seats and 26 seats reserved for women and four reserved for religious minorities. Fata will have 21 seats in the KP Assembly, including 16 general, four for women and one reserved for non-Muslims “provided that elections to the aforesaid seats shall be held within one year after the general elections 2018”, according to the bill.
Mr Khattak in his concluding remarks assured the house that an ordinance would be promulgated on Monday to give legal cover to Nizam-i-Adal Regulation.
He further told the house that the present status quo of Malakand division would be maintained, as the federal government would not withdraw relaxation in taxes for the next five years. “I assure you that no government can have the courage to change status of Malakand division to impose taxes to the area,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2018