In a rare show of unity, the National Assembly of Pakistan voted in favor of the constitutional amendment to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The historic bill will be passed on Monday 13 May 2019.
All major political parties supported the bill, with 229 lawmakers voting in its favor and only one voting against it. The constitutional amendment needed the support of a two-thirds majority or 228 members and the house managed to get it through after five hours of discussion by barely mustering the required support.
The Law Minister and Justice Chaudhary Mahmood Bashir Virk moved the bill which was strongly supported by leading parties except for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and an independent member. Opponents cliamed that people of Fata should be given right to decide their own fate, and a referendum should be conducted in the tribal areas in this regard.
The constitutional amendment will help remove the sense of deprivation of the people of these tribal areas, which have now been assimilated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provice.
The bill titled Thirty-First Amendment Act, 2018 seeks six amendments in different articles of the Constitution that include Article 1, 51, 59, 62, 106, 155 and 246.
The bill seeks reduction in number of the Senate seats from 104 to 96 members as Fata will no longer have separate representation after the merger but for now they will continue till expiry of their respective terms in office. Out of the eight unfortunate senators, half would retire in 2021, and the other half would go home in 2024.
Similarly, the K-P Assembly will have 145 seats, including 115 general, 26 reserved for women and four for minorities. Fata will have 21 seats in the K-P Assembly, including 16 general, four for women and one reserved for non-Muslims.
Elections to the aforesaid seats would be held within one year after the general elections 2018. The bill also amends Article 246 of the Constitution that seeks to merge areas of Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) in Balochistan and K-P.