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Maulana Fazlur Rehman called Fata to be granted province status

31 December, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Saturday called for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to be granted the status of a province, and vowed to continue his stand against the proposed merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“If Gilgit-Baltistan can get its own government, why can’t Fata be given a provincial government system?” the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief asked the participants of a rally that descended on China Chowk, a stone’s throw from Parliament House.

This was the first major rally organised by the JUI-F and attended by groups opposed to the merger of the tribal areas with KP.

Earlier on Dec 12, Fata and KP natives had staged a brief sit-in near the same spot to demand the merger of the two areas. Organised by the Jamaat-i-Islami, the demonstrators had demanded that the government implement the recommendations of the special committee, constituted by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to make proposals for the mainstreaming of the restive tribal areas.

In his speech, delivered primarily in Pashto, the JUI-F chief said the people of the tribal areas would decide their own future and would never allow anyone to change their “independent identity”.

“If we talk about the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir, then why not for Fata?” he asked, adding that the people of Fata should be allowed to live independently.

He said that parliament was supreme and had the power to legislate and amend the Constitution, but “they cannot change the geographical boundaries of the country”.

The JUI-F chief alleged that some of the elected representatives from Fata were supporting the merger with KP because they were “under pressure”.

“Elected representatives of Fata can be pressurised, but the tribal people can never be pressurised,” he declared, amidst slogans.

He said that no system could forcibly be imposed on the people of Fata, who had rendered great sacrifices for Pakistan and for the cause of peace in the country. He said that no reforms that were prepared without consulting them would be acceptable to the people of Fata.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman claimed his party would continue to support the people of the tribal areas, come what may. He said that he had endured prison when he opposed the decision of the former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf to join the US-led war on terror in 2001, and was prepared to go to jail again today over his support for the Fata cause. He also called on all political parties supporting the merger to “reconsider” their policy.

The rally was also attended by a number of JUI-F parliamentarians and other notables from Fata.

Interestingly, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) dissident Ayesha Gulalai also came to participate in the rally, but was not allowed onto the stage. The organisers of the rally told Ms Gulalai that they could not allow a woman to sit with the men on stage, in accordance with tribal traditions.

Ms Gulalai then left the venue after an argument with the organisers.

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