FATA merger: K-P drags its feet on getting president’s nod

PESHAWAR: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) had still not formally requested a presidential approval for Fata’s merger with the province at the end of the day.
That the reluctance is due to a fear of voiding the region’s legal and administrative apparatus.
Despite a series of meetings since the passage of the bill, K-P’s bureaucracy has been grappling with the fallout of the merger.
“The merger was said to be a phase-wise process,” said one official. “Neither was the abolition of Article 247 on the cards till the last moment,” he added.
While the president had signed the Fata Interim Governance Regulation 2018 – a law with similar references to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) but nominal changes to be implemented in the tribal areas – sources privy to the meetings said that after the changes to the Constitution, the interim regulation had ‘little legal standing’.
“Once the president signs the constitutional amendment bill into law, there will be no legal backing for the regulation,” said a senior official. “The need was to put together legal wizards from both the federal and provincial governments to find a solution,” he added.
But according to the sources, one of the reasons for holding back the assembly’s approval was that the federal government had not provided any economic guarantees for implementing the development strategy.
The bill does not specify generation for the provision of finances for the agencies and increases dependency on the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, which the provinces might agree to, but will take a lot of time, hence creating hurdles in the implementation of reforms.
“There was an allocation of Rs10 billion for development in the budget presented by the outgoing federal government, which seems sufficient for the interim period, but given the needs [of the area] for drastic development, such an amount seems insufficient [for a full fiscal year],” said an official.
He explained that scuttling Article 247 would end in a situation which would not only have an adverse effect on Fata, but would also make it difficult to hold up the Action in Aid of Civil Power, Nizam-e-Adal Regulation, the policing authority of the federal and provincial levies, and the tax amnesty provided to the area.
For the purpose, late on Monday night, with the approval of the cabinet, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Continuation of Laws in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) Ordinance 2018 was floated and sent to the governor for putting his signature.
“It’s a hurried piece of legislation, but it’s all that could be done now,” he said.
One of the main reasons cited by the government for the imposition of the ordinance is that the drastic changes might result in a law and order situation.
Explaining the ordinance, a legal expert said that the problems would be placed before a committee which would hold consultations with the chief secretary for doing away with them. But he added that translating laws is primarily the role of the cabinet and not a bureaucratic committee.
A senior bureaucrat says, “If there is a legal problem with the president’s interim regulation, we will adopt a similar ordinance for Fata as well.”