FATA will be merged into Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province - Decision Finalized?
* Envoy to US says tribal people should not be kept separate because it has already deprived them of basic facilities
By Iqbal Khattak, Daily Times, July 9, 2010
PESHAWAR: The federal government will gradually merge FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistani Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani said on Thursday.
The ambassador made these remarks during a radio interview. The proposed merger of the Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is supported by the Awami National Party (ANP) but opposed by the tribal elders. “The government’s declared policy is the gradual inclusion of the Tribal Areas into what is now known as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the idea is that the people of the Tribal Areas should not be kept separate because that separateness has deprived them of schooling, infrastructure and economic opportunities,” he told Radio Mashaal in Prague. It is for the first time that a senior government official has publicly announced a major policy statement about the Tribal Areas where al Qaeda and the Taliban have established strong footprints after the US ousted the Taliban in 2001.
Haqqani’s statement comes at a time when the government has delayed the implementation of the FATA reforms, which President Zardari had announced on August 14, 2009. The issue of merging the Tribal Areas was not discussed in the 18th Amendment and according to some political analysts, the merger might require a constituional amendment. “The government and the international community has allocated vast resources now and as soon as peace is restored in the Tribal Areas, one of the first things that will be done is to start building new infrastructure, bringing clean water, roads and schools,” Haqqani said. The merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is supported by the ANP and its secular allies, but different tribal areas have strong reservations on the issue. “We will never support FATA’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Tribal Areas President Malik Waris Khan said. “We need a separate province,” he told Daily Times. “Our leader Benazir Bhutto had told the party’s tribal leaders that autonomy status like Gilgit-Baltistan will be given to FATA. The issue of a merger should be decided by the tribal people, not outsiders,” Waris said.
The ANP has been demanding FATA’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “The merger will largely help the tribal people and we welcome it,” ANP Vice President Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel said. Haqqani said the government had “consistently maintained” that “we consider all the Taliban a threat to our own security as well as to the security of our region and the world”.
For Background, see:
Bring FATA within NWFP-Asfandyar - Khyber.org
Agenda for FATA Reform - By Khalid Aziz
President Obama's Policy Options in FATA - By Hassan Abbas, ISPU