Seminar on FATA merger held in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar have asked for holding elections to the provincial assembly in the erstwhile FATA at the earliest in order to put an end to the decades long sense of frustration and deprivation developed by the people over the years.

The speaker’s at the seminar were unequivocal in their demand to implement 25th constitutional amendment in its true letter and spirit.

The seminar organized by Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) at a local hotel in Peshawar attracted a good number of legal experts, students and women forums, business community, political and human rights activists and media men beside a large number of civil society organizations.

The 25th constitutional amendment has merged seven tribal districts and six Frontier Regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The seminar titled ‘Implementation of 25th Constitutional Amendment: Legal and Institutional Setup in Newly Merged Districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Former FATA)’ recommended holding provincial assembly elections in the newly merged districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former FATA), establishing judicial setup, holding local government elections, and new NFC award for allocation of more resources to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the new National Finance Commission (NFC) at its earliest was the only way forward.

Professor Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Director Area Study Centre of Peshawar University termed the 25th Constitutional Amendment a welcome move but at the same time feared that if social service delivery and justice system were not improved in the post 25th constitutional amendment era, the people of the tribal districts may resolve to protests as seen in the recent past. He also emphasized that the federal government should give all pending amount in hydro royalty and the promised Rs100 billion for development in erstwhile  FATA to bring this neglected region at par with the rest parts of the country.

Mr. Hanif Orakzai, Chief Information Commissioner KP, shared his plan on extending KP RTI law to the Malakand division (former PATA) first as these areas are now under the direct jurisdiction of the KP Assembly.  Mr. Orakzai hoped that the new developments would certainly put the region back on the track to progress and prosperity.

Dr. Ashraf Ali demanded early election to the local bodies adding this was the only way out to include the people of erstwhile FATA into the provincial and decision making process. He added this would give them the sense of ownership to the system they are part of.

Advocate Zahir Shah Safi demanded increase in the seats allocated for the provincial assembly from 21 – 25.  Mr. Safi questioned if FATA, according to article 1 of the 1973 constitution, is part of the country, then why should the people of the region be treated differently? He also termed FATA Interim Governance Regulations 2018 as a replica of FCR.

Earlier, in his welcome address Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director CGPA, shared the required institutional setup in the post 25th constitutional amendment scenario. He demanded the provincial and federal governments to provide the required resources for land settlement in newly merged areas, establishing of judicial setup and holding elections on provincial assembly seats as soon as possible. However, the main task of the newly elected government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is to negotiate NFC with increase of at least 3% share of the of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he remarked.

Senior journalist Mr. Iftikhar Firdous, Bureau Chief the Express Tribune, lamented the lack of transparency in the implementation process. He also termed the situation on ground unchanged as the implementation process had yet to be started. He anticipated that new government would have to face a lot of  challenge in the extending service delivery and implementation of provincial laws in newly merged districts owing to meager financial resources.

Advocate Ijaz Mohmand, termed the merger of FATA into KP as landmark decision by the outgoing government adding there were still a lot of challenges ahead but hoped things will settle down with the passage of time. Ex President FATA Lawyers Forum, said there were still some confusions and ambiguities but things will get clear as and when we move forward. However this historic move means a lot for the people of FATA, Mr Mohmand maintained.

The participants also demanded that the development process in the newly merged districts should be inclusive and gender sensitive.