Tuesday, December 12, 2017

FATA reforms: Opposition walks out over govt's failure to table bill in NA

PM calls parliamentary leaders for meeting on Friday; opposition parties form negotiating committee

ISLAMABAD: The opposition staged a walkout in the National Assembly on Tuesday after the government failed to table a bill pertaining to reforms in the tribal areas.

During the assembly session, chaired by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah criticised the callous attitude of the government regarding the bill.

He remarked that the government is not serious about the implementation of the FATA Reforms Bill. 

"Seventy years have passed, we must work towards solving the problems of people of FATA," he said, adding “we hope that FATA Reforms Bill is part of the assembly agenda tomorrow [Wednesday].”

“Our stance was very clear, if you don’t do this [table the bill] then it is an insult of the Parliament,” he said, adding “we want the Parliament to be respected.”

The opposition leader further said that they will continue to stage walkouts till a clarification is given for delaying the matter.

Meeting with PM on Friday 

State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab informed the house that the prime minister has invited on Friday parliamentary leaders of all parties.

After the opposition walked out, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Hamid-ul-Haq pointed out the lack of a quorum due to which the session was adjourned until 10am Wednesday (tomorrow). 

Opposition forms joint committee 

Meanwhile, a committee comprising leaders of opposition parties has been formed to negotiate with the government over the matter. 

The recommendations to bring FATA at par with the rest of the country were approved by the federal cabinet on March 2.

Imran Khan warns of 'serious repercussions'

PTI chief Imran Khan, who did not attend the session, tweeted on the subject after the session ended.

He demanded the government to immediately table a "full package of FATA reforms", which should include the abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation, extension of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court's jurisdiction to FATA and an amendment in Article 106 of the Constitution to allow an increase of seats in the KP Assembly to accommodate representatives from the tribal areas.

He stated further that the government's "non-serious approach" on the subject is an insult to the tribespeople "who have sacrificed so much but have still to be given their full democratic rights". 

He warned that the delay in implementing the complete reforms package is causing unrest in FATA and will have serious repercussions.

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.

Opposition irked over govt's 'non-serious' attitude

The government on Monday failed to table the bill, drawing the opposition's ire over the delay.

Lawmakers from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), 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 Bajaur Agency, protested over the change in the assembly agenda. He was joined by other lawmakers from the tribal areas.

The parliamentary affairs minister said the 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.

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."