ISLAMABAD – In a landmark development, the National Assembly on Thursday approved a much-awaited constitutional amendment bill regarding the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the majority.
The 31st amendment bill was tabled by Law Minister Mahmood Bashir Virk in a historic session called after a parliamentary committee agreed upon the draft of the bill despite resistance from Jamat-e-Uleman Islam-F and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
229 members of the assembly voted in favour of the introduction of the bill while 11 others voted against it.
MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar said that his party is supporting the bill “for the sake of political unity.” He further clarified that his party still believes that Fata should be made a separate province. Sattar also called for a referendum in Fata regarding turning it into a new province.
Representing PkMAP in the NA, Abdul Qahar defended his party’s position and said that they had always termed the bill controversial. He added that the people of Fata should be given the right to decide about their own future.
The bill seeks an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which describes Pakistan’s territory and mentions Fata as a separate entity along with other four provinces.
The bill also seeks to amend Articles 51 and 106, which specify the number of seats allocated to each of the provinces.
The strength of the Senate will reduce from 104 to 96 members as Fata will no longer have separate representation, while the seats of National Assembly will reduce from 342 to 336.
The KP assembly will now have 145 seats, including 115 general, 26 reserved for women and four for minorities.
Fata will have 21 seats in the KP Assembly, including 16 general, four for women and one reserved for non-Muslims.
Articles 246 and 247 will be amended ending the control of the president on the Fata.
PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz boasted about the achievement of the ruling government after the bill was approved.
پاکستان مسلم لیگ ن حکومت کا ایک اور کارنامہ
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) May 24, 2018
فاٹا کے عوام کو قومی دھارے میں شمولیت مبارک ہو – نوازشریف کے ایک اور وعدے کی تکمیل – پاکستان زندہ باد 🇵🇰
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) May 24, 2018
KPK’s Nod Necessary for Implementation
After having given a go-ahead by the lower Chamber of the Parliament, the bill needs to be endorsed by Senate (on Friday) and consequently president Mamnoon Hussain.
Additionally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly needs to introduce amendments to fully implement the bill as the Fata-KP merger bill has increased the seats of the provincial assembly.
Imran Khan’s Rare Appearance
The parliamentary session observed a higher attendance of the lawmakers as members of opposition parties, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), took part in the major decision passionately.
In a surprising move, PTI chief Imran Khan, who has been forcefully supporting the Fata merger, also reached the NA after nearly two years to take part in the landmark event.
However, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party members boycotted the session.
Earlier, the PTI had directed its legislators to ensure their presence in the assembly in order to get the bill passed smoothly. However, Imran Khan, who has been forcefully demanding the Fata-KP merger, would also attend the historic session.
Earlier this week, the amendment bill got the approval of the federal cabinet in a session presided over by the prime minister.
In 2016, the KP assembly passed a resolution supporting the merger of Fata with KP with the aim of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the infrastructure.