ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment seeking the much-awaited merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) with a 229-1 vote in favour.
Lawmakers from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chose to walk out from the assembly ahead of the vote. Dawar Kundi from the PTI was the sole dissenting vote in the final count.
A session of the Senate has been called on Friday (tomorrow) to review the bill and give assent.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas represent the gateway to the plains of the subcontinent through seven passes: Bajaur, Dir, Khyber, Mohmand, Peiwar Kotal in Kurram Agency, the Bolan Pass and Gomal in South Waziristan.
The long-awaited mainstreaming of the tribal areas has been in the works for four years, pointed out Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during the session.
PM Abbasi, who spoke after Imran Khan’s address in the house, thanked the opposition benches for voting in favour of the “historic” bill.
Referring to Imran Khan’s speech — in which the PTI chief had brought up rigging, money laundering and the Panama Papers case — the prime minister said he did not want to divert attention from the landmark bill by talking about unrelated matters.
“Imran Khan should not have touched upon controversial matters today,” he said. “Today, we [parliament] have proved that consensus can be formed [on issues of national importance].”
“Our effort — all our efforts — should be to have consensus on all national issues,” he added.
Government, opposition laud parliament for coming together
Khan, who had addressed the parliament right before Abbasi, had also congratulated parliament on coming together despite the differences between the ruling and the opposition parties.
“The tribal people want immediate justice, just like under the system we have in KP,” he said.
But Khan, who had appeared in parliament after two years, soon deviated from the topic at hand in what seemed to be a bid to explain his prolonged absence from the house.
Much to the growing irritation of the treasury benches, Khan began by saying his party had staged the 2014 sit-in after parliament’s failure to listen to its grievances.
“We did not get any response from the National Assembly and other institutions,” he said.
“After a year [of waiting for a response] we held the sit-in,” he said, explaining that “as a democrat” it was his right to stage protests and agitate for the people’s rights.
“And then there was Panama — is asking for accountability something undesirable?” he asked amidst uproar, before chiding the lawmakers present for turning a blind eye.
“I am proud we brought a corrupt prime minister to justice for laundering money,” he said. As the ruling party’s lawmakers continued to protest vocally, he said at one point: “Have the courage to listen to me.”
“A member sitting here [on the treasury benches] had once said to me: ‘koi sharam hoti hai, koi haya hoti hai’. I see that that member is no longer here today,” he said, referring to erstwhile foreign minister Khawaja Asif, who was recently removed from office for concealing assets.
“Standing against money laundering was the right thing to do,” he said. “We are proud of our struggle.”
The PTI subsequently walked out. –dawn.com