PM Abbasi said no external pressure but political consensus led to FATA merger legislation.

ISLAMABAD (APP) - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Thursday said the bill providing for merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been passed earlier on the day by the National Assembly following the consensus among the political parties, not because of any external pressure.

Talking to reporters at a news conference here, the prime minister said the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been part of the Pakistan Muslim League-N’s manifesto, but later the political parties termed it a good step and extended their support to the passage of the bill with clear two-third majority in the National Assembly.

He said the government had formed the FATA Reforms Committee led by Sartaj Aziz that followed the constitution of an implementation committee comprising the chief minister and governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, army chief and other stakeholders. After threadbare debate, all the stakeholders evolved consensus to replace centuries old tribal laws with the regular laws and merge the area with KP, he added.

He said the bill had also given a timeframe for the local government to be held this year. The provincial assembly election will be held within a year as delimitation and political system were yet to be established there.

The prime minister who was accompanied by cabinet members including Marriyum Aurangzeb, Lt. Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, former law minister Zahid Hamid and MNA from FATA Shah Jee Gul Afridi, said under the bill, 12 National Assembly seats had been maintained though the area was entitled to six seats as per recent national census. Eight seats of Senate have also been protected. All those eight Senate seats would stand abolished by 2024.

The prime minister said the government had already announced to extend the jurisdictions of Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court and the decision would be implemented along with the whole process of merger.

He told media that the government had proposed the allocation of Rs 100 billion a year for 10 years period to develop the area at par with others. The development schemes would be identified in coordination with the provincial government, he added.

To a question about the reservations of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Mehmood Achakzai, the prime minister said the mater had been discussed for long and threadbare. Majority of the parties supported the merger for welfare of the people, particularly the youth from FATA desired such a legislation for their uplift.

He said after this constitutional amendment by the parliament, the bill would also be required to be enacted by the provincial assembly. If the incumbent assembly wanted to pass this during their remainder period, the PML-N would support the ruling party to get it passed with two-third majority.

He said after accomplishment of this special development package, the province would be given its share under the NFC formula like other provinces.

Asked why a huge number of parliamentarians had not come up for voting the constitutional amendment, the prime minister said 22 members from his party were absent and he would question them. He said some members had genuine reasons for absence and a few other had not come as they had left the party.

He said not a huge number had quit the party. Those who were blaming Nawaz Sharif’s doctrine behind their decision to leave the party was just a notion because the doctrine had nothing to go against for.

He said everyone including him were well cognizant of the people and their political career who had left the party. They have exercised their right but they will get no advantage out of it, he added.

Prime Minister Abbasi said the voters base of the PML-N was intact as the people realized the situation and they would give their verdict in July 2018 elections.

To a question whether the government would take action against those whom Nawaz Sharif had mentioned in his doctrine, the prime minister said such things could not be prosecuted. However, truth and reconciliation commission could be formed to look into such matters as had been in vogue in other countries. He viewed that such commissions should also be formed through national consensus to document what had been happening in the country.

Regarding caretaker prime minister, Abbasi said both the government and opposition had put forward three names each. They will meet again for final round to evolve consensus on any one of the proposed names or any other one.

In case, both the sides failed to reach any agreement, they will propose two names each to be forwarded to the parliamentary committee. If the matter remained unresolved at parliament too, the same four names would be referred to the Election Commission for final decision.

To a question, the prime minister said the PML-N had never boycotted the elections nor it would do in future.