Dubai: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has achieved his first major breakthrough in the parliament which approved a bill bringing the ex-tribal areas into the mainstream political system of the country.
The National Assembly (lower house) of Pakistan on Monday unanimously approved the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill which seeks to increase the number of seats in National Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Provincial Assembly from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), paving the way for ealier deprived population to contest elections on level playing fields.
Passing of the bill with two-third majority is seen as the first major achievement for Prime Minister Imran in the parliament. And, this move also shows that parliamentarians both from the treasury and the opposition benches are united when it comes to larger national interests.
Under the bill, the number of NA seats from former FATA will be increased to 12 from six. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, seats will be increased to 24 from 16. The bill also seeks four additional reserved seats for women and one for minorities.
With the passage of this bill, the Pakistani media reported, residents of ex-Fata will be represented in the provincial assembly for the first time since their merger with KP was enabled via the 25th Constitutional Amendment Bill passed on May 31, 2018 during Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) government.
Imran is happy over the consensus on the bill
Prime Minister Imran in his address in the National Assembly, said the entire nation stood with the people of tribal areas who had faced difficult times. “The nation wants them to be mainstreamed and have a voice. I am happy that there is a consensus among all parties to increase their seats to mainstream them.”
He also asked the provinces to give at least three per cent money from their funds as he noted that the development of FATA will only take place when the provinces chip in resources.
The Prime Minister noted that people of former FATA had suffered a lot in the war against terrorism and this long war had damaged the entire infrastructure of the area.
No one should feel that Pakistan does not own them. This kind of sense of deprivation was dangerous as it could be exploited by Pakistan's enemies and it was being exploited.
He said it was responsibility of the entire country to come forward and bring former FATA into the mainstream.
FATA people have feeling of deprivation
He said the people of former FATA had reservations about their economic condition as their houses and basic infrastructure had been destroyed and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government alone could never cover that damage from its own development funds.
“No one should feel that Pakistan does not own them. This kind of sense of deprivation was dangerous as it could be exploited by Pakistan's enemies and it was being exploited.”
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had last week said that the bill would help end the sense of deprivation felt by the people of ex-Fata and allow them to take part in Pakistan's growth, as well as send a clear message that nobody would be permitted to deprive them of their rights.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already announced a schedule for the election on 16 seats of the erstwhile Fata for the KP Assembly. The elections on the news seats will be held on July 25.
Rs 100 billion development fund for tribal areas
Last month, Prime Minister Imran had announcement to spend Rs100 billion (Dh2.6billlion) to develop the backward triable areas in the country is one of his wisest decisions.
The developing triable area which were earlier known as the breeding ground for militants and hide-outs for terrorists, will help bring them in the main political system and end the feeling of being left out as deprived people.
Imran is probably the first prime minister of Pakistan who is taking practical steps to bring reforms in the most backward and under-developed tribal belt of the country.
Lack of job opportunities, healthcare facilities and educational institutions plagued these areas for decades forcing the local population either to migrate to Gulf countries to earn living or indulge in illegal businesses of drug-peddling, arms smuggling or even joining the militant groups to make both ends meet.
Pakistan has merged the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province last year in a bid to bring constitutional governance and restoring peace to the trouble areas.
But no practical steps have so been taken to improve the plight of deprived people of the tribal areas which has estimated population of more than five million.