Opposition walks out as FATA Reforms impasse persists in NA

The opposition once again staged a walkout from the National Assembly proceedings on Thursday, as the FATA Reforms Bill for the region’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remained out of the agenda for yet another session.
Speaker NA Ayaz Sadiq postponed the session on indication of the quorum, after leaders from the Pakistan Peoples Party and other opposition parties walked out of the session.
Speaking at the House, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said the government remains committed to implement the FATA reforms.
“The FATA reforms will be implemented in accordance with the wishes of the region’s citizens,” he vowed.
“Give us some more time for the bill, it will be tabled soon. The people of FATA will be given their due rights,” the minister added. 
PPP’s Naveed Qamar lamented that the FATA Reforms Bill was “dropped from the [NA] agenda overnight” and demanded that the government present the bill in the assembly.
The issue of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (FATA) merger with KP is one of the pending matters for the incumbent government and has dominated the political discourse of the country in recent weeks.
The KP Assembly had adopted a resolution on December 14, 2016 in favour of merging FATA with KP with the aim of rehabilitating and reconstructing the infrastructure including roads, communications, power lines, water supply, education and health facilities.
The recommendations to bring the tribal areas at par with the rest of the country were approved by the federal cabinet on March 2, but the matter has been delayed since then.
On Wednesday, the FATA supreme council held a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and said that the citizens of the region want to maintain their separate identity. The matter of FATA’s merger with KP was left unresolved after the meeting.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Tuesday had conditionally agreed to support the proposal of FATA’s merger with KP and said that further consultations for the FATA Reforms Bill will continue to be held.
Earlier this month, however, more than 500 tribal elders had met at a grand jirga and rejected the possible merger.
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also recently assured delegations from FATA that the Pakistan Army fully supports mainstreaming of the region in line with aspirations of tribal brothers.