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‘Unanimous Passage Of Ex-FATA BillIs Encouraging But State Must Also End Flawed Policies Of The Past’

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In a rare display of unity, the National Assembly on Monday unanimously passed the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill seeking an increase in the number of seats for the erstwhile Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the National Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly.

The bill amended Article 51 and Article 106 of the Constitution to increase the number of seats for the newly-merged tribal districts to 12 in the National Assembly and to 24 in provincial assembly, paving the way for the residents of former FATA to contest elections on level playing fields. All parties in the assembly voted in favour of the legislation, which is a welcome respite from the ruckus witnessed in the assemblies these days.

The leadership of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) which is mostly critical of the state policies has welcomed the development.

The bill was moved by PTM-associated MNA Mohsin Dawar who says he is grateful to the political leadership for its support. Talking to Naya Daur, Mohsin Dawar said the unanimous approval of the bill proves that when political forces hold discussions in a democratic culture while keeping aside their differences, consensus can be forged.

He is hopeful that the bill would be approved from the Senate as well.

Dawar says PTM’s disagreement with the state is on policies and that does not stop him and Ali Wazir from playing their role as members of opposition in the Parliament. “PTM is the only real opposition party”, he said.

In response to a question, he said that the parties must show the same unity when it comes to other matters such as enforced disappearances – an issue which has long been ignored by the parliament.

Dawar further said that a lot of work remains to be done if the state is serious about addressing the grievances of the residents of former FATA. “The PM’s statement about mainstreaming tribal people is encouraging, but the state must also discontinue the flawed policies of the past. The tribal region must not be used as a laboratory for proxy wars”, he said, adding that the proxy elements of the past caused much damage and such policies should end forever.

Meanwhile, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar says the bill might delay the elections and put the merger process on the backburner. He tweeted, “FATA Bill means more seats in Parliament. Most welcome. But watch out. It also means elections put off so no real merger. It means no change in FATA Regulation so no civilian control & no real power transfer. It means no demilitarization. It means elephant still in the room.”

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