FATA merger, FCR abolition: JI threatens long march on Islamabad

PESHAWAR: The Jamaat-i-Islami has warned that if the federal government didn’t abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation and announce the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before Eidul Azha, it would begin a long march on Islamabad.

Addressing a sit-in protest near the Governor’s House, JI chief Senator Sirajul Haq urged the party workers and tribal people to prepare for a long march on Islamabad. “If the federal government doesn’t accept demands, then I will lead the long march,” he said.

The JI chief said the people of Fata, especially youths, had revolted against the status quo and rejected the system of colonial era as it served the interests of the corrupt people only. He said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi should take bold steps regarding the future of Fata instead of looking towards his party’s disqualified prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, for it. Mr Siraj said the prime minister didn’t believe that he was the country’s chief executive.

The JI workers staged a sit-in on the Sher Shah Suri Road along the Governor’s House. Leaders of other political parties and civil society groups also present on the stage. The protesters shouted slogans in favor of Fata-KP merger and abolition of FCR in tribal region. The sit-in caused massive traffic jams on the roads after the police blocked the main road to the protest venue diverting the traffic to the Khyber Bazaar.

The political parties have expedited the campaign for reforms, especially merger of Fata with KP. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had organized a sit-in at the same place on August 11 to pressure the federal government to implement the recommendations of the Sartaj Aziz-led committee on reforms in tribal areas. The committee’s report was unveiled last year.

Mr Siraj said the National Assembly instead of passing the Election Bill, 2017, on Tuesday, should have passed the Fata reforms bill and announced representation for tribal people in the KP Assembly in the 2018 general elections. He said the federal government had violated Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution by not implementing the Fata reforms report. “We will make a struggle for genuine reforms in Fata and the region’s merger with KP,” he said.

The JI chief flayed US President Donald Trump for accusing Pakistan of providing sanctuaries to terrorists and threatening to end its assistance. “Ironically, Trump has interfered in Pakistan’s internal matters and threatened to punish it over its policies,” he said, adding that the US was blaming others for its wrong policies.

Wolasi Tehreek president Dr Said Alam Mehsud insisted that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had betrayed the people of Fata by not implementing the Fata reforms committee’s recommendations. He said the committee had recommended something different from what the government was bringing about. “The Sartaj Aziz committee had recommended the Fata-KP merger but the government was planning to introduce Rewaj Act in Fata, which is unacceptable for the tribesmen,” he said. Dr Said Alam said the government had planned to allocate 24 seats for Fata in the KP Assembly and utilization of funds through the KP Governor and Presidency. “We want genuine reforms and immediate merger of Fata with KP,” he said.

Fata Lawyers Forum president Rahim Shah said certain institutions didn’t want true Fata reforms and merger of the region with KP. He said ‘some institutions’ wanted to exploit tribal people by continuing with the existing system in the region.

Fata Political Alliance president Iqbal Afridi, who is also the PTI, Khyber Agency, president, demanded that the government extend the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to tribal areas. He said the FCR was used as a tool to suppress and victimize the people.