Monday, December 11, 2017

Opposition irked by govt failure to present FATA Reforms Bill in NA

"There is further consultation required on bill, which is why it was not tabled," minister for parliamentary affairs tells opposition


ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday failed to table a bill pertaining to FATA's merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, drawing the opposition's ire over the delay.

Lawmakers from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and those from FATA tore copies of the assembly agenda in protest over the delay.

MNA Shahabuddin, who is also a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from FATA, protested over the change in the assembly agenda. He was joined by other lawmakers from tribal areas.

The protesting members said the agenda included the FATA Reforms Bill and questioned why it was changed.

Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, minister for parliamentary affairs, said a debate on FATA reforms was temporarily postponed and the matter would soon be made part of the assembly agenda.

"There is further consultation required on the bill, which is why it was not tabled," Aftab explained.

Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah also criticised the government for putting the matter on hold and referred to the entire episode as a "joke".

"Another joke was played today. The matter is under process since the incumbent government came into power and it is beyond comprehension as to why the matter was excluded from the agenda after its inclusion," Shah said.

"The entire nation wants FATA to become a constitutional part of the country, but the government is merely passing its time in the parliament."

Murtaza Javed Abbasi, the deputy speaker of the assembly, intervened and attempted to defuse the situation.

"The minister for parliamentary affairs has given an explanation and the bill would be tabled in the house in the next two to three days," Abbasi said, adding that the bill could not be included in the agenda on "technical basis."

At this, the opposition leader warned that they would continue to stage a walk-out from the assembly if the matter was not resolved.

Some members of the opposition also tore copies of the agenda and staged a sit-in before the speaker's dais, followed by a walk-out by PPP members.

PTI's Shah Mehmood Qureshi lamented that all the members of the House were given agenda of Monday's session a night before, which had the FATA Reforms Bill, but it was excluded from the agenda copies distributed today.

"They are showing us the way that issues are resolved through sit-ins, not by the parliament," Qureshi said.

The opposition members rejected all explanations furnished by the treasury.

The opposition leader added the government should clearly state that a few individuals are against this bill. "Or at least tell us why this bill was excluded from the agenda," he demanded.

Later, all opposition members walked out of the assembly hall, after which the session was adjourned until 10:30am on Tuesday.

The recommendations to bring FATA at par with the rest of the country were approved at the Cabinet meeting on FATA reforms on March 2.

Once FATA is made part of KP, the province's share in the National Finance Commission will increase, as 3 per cent will be earmarked for the region.

The KP Assembly had adopted a resolution on December 14, 2016, in favour of merging FATA with KP that would help rehabilitate and reconstruct the infrastructure including roads, communications, power lines, water supply, education and health facilities.