ISLAMABAD: The multiparty conference held on Thursday to demand the swift merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa not only exposed the lack of coherence among stakeholders, but also saw some of the key players announcing their intention to block the mainstreaming of the tribal areas.
Organised by the Awami National Party (ANP) to discuss the early merger of Fata with KP and the replacement of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) with the laws of Pakistan, proceedings of the conference on the fate of tribal Pashtuns was conducted mostly in Urdu.
Although the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) have already openly discredited the idea for their own reasons, even those who expressed their support for the merger presented varied roadmaps that contradicted with each other’s plans.
Representatives of nearly all key political parties attended the multiparty conference, except for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Most of the speakers who supported the merger belonged to ideological left, but even a representative of the JUI-Sami called for a speedy merger of the tribal areas with KP and stressed the need to replace the FCR with Sharia courts.
Nearly all speakers, including Professor Ibrahim of the Jamaat-i-Islami, blamed the federal government for keeping Fata underdeveloped and its residents underprivileged.
From among leftist nationalist parties, PkMAP not only opposed the merger, but also the mainstreaming of Fata on the grounds that there was a need to preserve the culture and traditions of tribal Pashtuns.
Starting his address in Pashto, PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, chief of PkMAP later slipped into Urdu as he narrated his perspective on the modernisation of the tribal areas, which included an amalgam of the jirga and the current administrative system.
The other staunch opponent of the merger, Maulana Fazalur Rehman, even compared the case of Fata with Kashmir, and that of the Durand Line with the Line of Control (LoC) and said there was nothing unusual in Fata that was not happening in the rest of the country.
“We take things emotionally and leaders play with emotions. Mr Asfandyar, you have made the Fata issue controversial, just as you did in 2012,” the JUI-F leader said, adding: “We cannot change the status of Fata; even the Quaid-i- Azam maintained it.
“The only solution is to hold a referendum just like the one we seek in Kashmir, just like the referendum held in Scotland and UK over Brexit.”
He claimed his party had suffered significantly “at the hands of Islamabad” after initiating a dialogue with the Fata elders, adding that if the Durand Line was made controversial like the LoC, there would be continuous clashes between the Pashtuns and Muslims on both sides.
He said there were many British-era draconian laws in Pakistan and there were more underdeveloped areas in Balochistan than Fata and stressed the need to not take any hasty decisions.
The key refutation speech was made by the host, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan. He stated that history had been distorted by some speakers, and clarified that constitutionally Fata was a part of Pakistan, unlike Azad Kashmir.
“A committee was formed by the federal government in this regard and the only two parties opposing it are their coalition partners – either you stay with them or come with the opposition,” he said.
He said reforms and mainstreaming had nothing to do with tribe, race or traditions.
“We are talking about giving equal rights to one part of Pakistan, not making a confederation of Iran, India, Bangladesh with Pakistan, along the lines of the EU,” he added.
Like most of the speakers, he too lashed out at the establishment and criticised the government, saying that due to their malafide intentions, they will not implement the recent cabinet decision.
“But I have a faith that one day Fata will be part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the second phase, we will go for the merger of North Pakhtunkhwa with South Pakhtunkhwa, so this unity can face up to Punjab,” the ANP leader concluded, referring to Pashtun-majority northern Balochistan.
(Dawn+The Pashtun Times)