Merger of FATA

IN its final report, official Committee on FATA Reforms has proposed merging of seven federally administered tribal areas with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and criticised the idea of holding a referendum in this regard. At a news conference in Islamabad on Thursday, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said that recommendations of the Committee have been placed before the Cabinet, which was likely to consider them in its next meeting.
The issue of determining future of FATA has been lingering on since long and there are indications that it would not wrap up in near future as the Senate Chairman has warned the Government against consideration or adoption of recommendations of the official Committee before the Committee of whole of the upper house frames its own recommendations. The issue is very important and it will have far reaching implications and therefore, there is no harm to wait for outcome of deliberations of the Senate but it may also be pointed out that the question is before the house for over three months and it should have done its homework by now instead of asking for more and indefinite time. Similarly, opposition by the Government for creation of a separate province or holding of a referendum to determine what tribal people themselves want is devoid of sanity and amounts to disrespecting the free will of people of FATA and their aspirations. The recommendations of the Sartaj Aziz-led committee have been finalised after discussions among elite class and it is understood that people at large in FATA were not taken on board. What is harm in finding a solution that has the backing and support of the FATA people? In fact, their support would make the new arrangement sustainable and dependable. No one would buy the strange logic being offered by Minister Qadir Baloch that if we accept the demand of referendum in FATA then tomorrow there would be similar demands for determining fate of South Punjab, Hazara and Karachi. This is because unlike FATA which is a separate entity, South Punjab, Hazara and Karachi are part and parcel of their respective provinces and it is not fair to draw a comparison. Of course, there are advantages in merging FATA with KP as the long strip of FATA bordering both KP and Balochistan would render it into an unmanageable administrative unit and people will have to travel a long distance to reach the future provincial headquarters but let people of FATA make the final decision and not those sitting in drawing-rooms of Islamabad and Peshawar.

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