PPP leader Senator Farhatullah Babar speaking at a seminar on FATA integration into KP in Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD: Merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Phukhtoonkhwa (KP) could not generate ownership among people of FATA as they feel excluded from the political and democratic process. For social and political inclusion of the people of FATA, the government should immediately hold local body elections so that the people of FATA have the opportunity to play their role in local governance. Moreover, an effective and reform judicial system should be implemented gradually. These were the views expressed by the speakers at the special roundtable titled “Integration of FATA into KP: The challenges ahead”, organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Thursday.

Farhatullah Babar Former Senator from Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) said that the way and the speed in which FATA merger bill (also known as Fata Interim Governance Regulation, 2018) was passed, raised concerns among political forces. He said that the decision by the then federal cabinet lacked consensus of all stakeholders. He urged the PTI led government to bring a resolution in the assembly which may contain that the provincial assembly can amend the interim regulations of FATA as per need and requirement. This will help resolve the controversies around the FATA merger, he added.

Senator Nauman Wazir of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said that for past 70 years people of FATA remained marginalized and not given due attention. He said that whatever happened in FATA has serious implication for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said that there is 90 percent unemployment in FATA, where there are negligible sources of livelihood. In this scenario, passage of FATA merger bill was a step forward in the right direction. He urged all political parties not to oppose the FATA merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said that ensuring finances for FATA should be the top priority of every political party.

Atta ur Rehman, Senator Jamiatul-Ulema-e-Islam (F), said that we still have the time to include the indigenous people of FATA in our decision making. He suggested that all the political workers and leaders should sit together for materializing a unanimous way forward for FATA merger and its future.

Afrasiab Khattak, Former Senator Awami National Party (ANP) said that FATA merger was not a big issue, however, the major challenges now is inclusion, which is social, economic and political inclusion. He said that after FATA merger right now there is no law to govern the region, as old system was repealed and new interim regulation is not effective till date. He said that there must be political ownership in FATA and for that local body elections should be held without any further delay.

Saleem Safi, Senior Journalist and Anchorperson said that the reality is that there was no system in FATA region. He said that the elections in FATA should have held with the general elections in July 2018. However, provincial and local government elections in FATA should be held immediately. After merger of FATA, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies are responsible for amendments in interim regulations and fulfill the basic needs of the people of FATA. Furthermore, the federal government should expedite the process of NFC award for the provision of three percent from the divisible pool for FATA.

Munir Khan Orakzai MNA Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F) said that his party was not against the merger of FATA, instead in favor of merger. He said that the only demand of JUI-F was to consult the real stakeholders i.e. the people of FATA on conditions of merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Malik Anwar Taj MNA PTI said that century to old Jirga system of alternate dispute resolution should be replaced gradually and step by step after FATA merger. Whereas, an effective and reform judicial system should be put in place.
Hassan Khan, Senior Analyst said that women suffer a lot in FATA region where a woman has no right to choose her own way of life. FATA people should not be considered as aliens, instead they should be provided constitutional rights like other parts of Pakistan. A political analyst Dr Ashraf Ali said that there is an increased sense of desperation prevailing in the people of FATA which should be addressed immediately