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Govt criticised for putting Fata reforms on hold

By Ikram Junaidi 2017-05-28
ISLAMABAD: There were expectations that the people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) would get their rights under a reform programme, but it seems the government is not serious about it, said speakers at a seminar on Saturday.

The seminar, `Backtracking on Fata reforms` was organised by Shaheed Bhutto Foundation (SBF) at the National Press Club.

For the fir st time in the history of the country, a bill, Rawaj Act, was recently tabled in the National Assembly in the light of recommendations by a committee formed by the government on the Fata reforms. However, all of a sudden the government put thereforms on hold without giving any reason.

Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP claimed that the Panama paper leaks case was the reason for putting the reforms on the backburner as the government was not in a position to go against the wishes of its two allies.

`The first sign of the government`s ill intentions became clear when ignoring the reforms package approved by the cabinet on March 2 it did not bring to parliament the constitutional amendment to extend the jurisdiction of superior courts to Fata.

`Then it was declared that other legislations already introduced would not be taken up during the ongoing session,` Mr Babar said.

`The statement of Minister for State and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch was also frustrating as he said lawmakers from Fata should not insist on the reforms because the army was against it.

Even no funds have been allocated for the reforms in the forthcoming budget,` he said.

Mr Babar claime d that most of the political parties, apart from two non-Fata-based coali-tion partners of the government, wanted the merger of Fata into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

`On the other hand, even the Peshawar High Court has ruled in favour of extending the jurisdiction of superior courts to the tribal areas. The GHQ has also publicly supported reforms. Moreover, the Constitution clearly says that tribal areas are a part of the territory of Pakistan,` he said.

Member National Assembly (MNA) from Fata Shah Jee Gul Afridi said the sitting government and all political parties had closely been moving forward on the reforms.

`However, suddenly something happened and everything went off mode. There is a needtorestartthe process andforthisevery political force should raise its voice and use its influence,` he said.

Another MNA from Fata, Sajjad Hussain, said Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai were the two hurdles on the path of the Fata reforms.

`People of Fata want same rights which are enjoyed by the citizens in other areas of the country.`An amount of Rs20 billion has been announced in the budget for distribution of laptops among students but not a single rupee has been allocated for the students of Fata. We have no option but to start a movement if the reform process is not started,` he said.

Former MNA of the PPP Akhunzada Chittan said before 9/11 the entire tribal belt was very peaceful. It was turned into hell as the Americans attacked Afghanistan and this belt started becoming a safe haven for Taliban. He warned that until and unless Fata was mainstreamed, peace in the rest of Pakistan would remain a dream.

Shahida Shah from Fata said women, children and persons with disabilities were the worst victims in Fata. `I have travelled from Fata for attending this event as a mother and daughter of Fata. I demand that people of Fata should be considered equal citizens of the country,` she said.

SBF chief executive officer Sikandar Ali Hullio said basic rights should be given to the people of Fata.