Fata People
Fata youth holding Pakistan flag (File photo)

Peshawar — The National Assembly on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment bill bringing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to mainstream after 71 years since Pakistan came into being in 1947.

In a ‘historic’ move, parliamentarians voted in favour of the 31st constitutional amendment to merge Fata with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The Upper House, Senate of Pakistan on Friday endorsed the bill and passed it with a significant majority.

After getting approval from both houses of the Parliament, the bill will now be presented before the KP assembly.

The 31st amendment is not only aimed also at merging the Provincial Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) with their respective provinces of KP and Balochistan.

Dawar Khan Kundi, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarian from Dera Ismail Khan, was the only dissenting vote after the lawmakers of two government allies — the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) and PkMAP — which chose to walk out from the assembly ahead of the vote as a mark of protest.

The JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl is reportedly in Saudi Arabia these days and there was talk in the galleries that he had been sent there by the government as a face-saving measure.

The JUI-F MNA Jamaluddin alleged that Fata was being merged with KP as of foreign agenda. “Today is a black day as the parliament is about to remove the name of Fata from the country’s constitution,” he said.

PkMAP leader Qahar Khan said Fata people should be given the right to decide about their own future. He said, “The people of Fata want their own province, their own chief minister, their own governor and their own public service commission.”

The highlight of the day’s proceeding was participation of PTI chairman Imran Khan in the voting who had appeared in the assembly after about two years.

During voting, 71 Upper House members voted in favour while five Senators from the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) opposed it. The bill needed a total of 69 votes to pass. PkMAP Senators also staged a walkout in the Senate.

Opposing the bill, JUI-F’s Ghafoor Hyderi said there was no logic in the decision. “Since the matter is about the people of Fata and their identity, they should have been asked what they wanted. There were three better options: separate province, repealing of FCR or a council system.”

The bill

The bill titled Thirty-First Amendment Act, 2018 seeks six amendments in different articles of the Constitution that include Article 1; 51; 59; 62; 106; 155 and 246.

The bill seeks reduction in number of the Senate seats from 104 to 96 members as Fata will no longer have separate representation after the merger but for now, they will continue till expiry of their respective terms in office. Hence half of the existing eight senators would retire in 2021 and the remaining four in 2024 and thereafter there would be no separate representation for Fata in the Senate.

Similarly, the K-P Assembly will have 145 seats, including 115 general, 26 reserved for women and four for minorities. Fata will have 21 seats in the K-P Assembly, including 16 general, four for women and one reserved for non-Muslims.

Elections to the aforesaid seats would be held within one year after the general elections 2018. The bill also amends Article 246 of the Constitution that seeks to merge areas of Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) in Balochistan and KP.

The bill has also exclusively repealed Article 247 that places the tribal areas under the ambit of president of Pakistan. Under the new amendment, the name of Fata as a separate entity from the country’s four existing provinces will be removed.

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