A group of tribal elders have challenged government plans to bring the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) into the mainstream, the primary step of which entails the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A petition filed by five tribal elders belonging to various Fata agencies questioned the prime minister’s authority to make fundamental decisions concerning the future of Fata, and claimed that the recommendations of the six-member Fata reforms committee are “illegal and unconstitutional”.
The petition argued that under Article 247 (6) of the Constitution, the power to make “a decision in relation to the merger of any part of the tribal area falls within the exclusive domain/jurisdiction of the President of Pakistan or his representative, the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province”.
The government’s claim that a majority of tribal people support the idea of Fata’s merger with KP is absolutely false, added the petition.
It said that the consultations held by the Fata reforms committee to seek the opinion of Fata residents regarding the merger are mere “eyewash”, as Article 247 (6) requires the government to hold a tribal jirga to solicit the opinion of tribal people.
“…the mere fact that neither of its [reform committee’s] members belong to Fata nor has any relationship whatsoever with the region denies it the requisite credibility and legitimacy,” the petition argued.
The petition said the court should restrain the federal government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from taking any decision regarding Fata based on the reforms committee’s recommendations.
It says a new committee, with representation from Fata, should be formed to propose reforms in Fata but “any order or direction in this regard must only be made by the President of Pakistan”.
The federal cabinet had last week approved a set of steps to be taken for the proposed merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with a 10-year reform package to bring the tribal region on a par with other developing areas of the country.
The more than Rs110 billion development package, proposed by the six-member Fata reforms committee, was approved for the seven agencies of the tribal region. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court was also proposed to be extended to Fata, where a new judicial system is expected to provide justice to people.
Introduction of a local government (LG) system, education and jobs opportunities for youth and upgradation of Levies forces are part of the 24-point Fata reforms. However, LG polls will be held after the 2018 general elections.