PESHAWAR: In the final phase, a session of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly passed the KP-FATA merger bill with two-thirds majority, after it being already approved from the upper and lower chambers of the Parliament.
The session held to vote for the bill was presided over by KP assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, where Chief Minister KP Pervaiz Khattak was also present.
The vote count showed that 92 provincial lawmakers voted in favour of the bill while seven in opposition.
At the beginning of the session, minority lawmaker Baldev Kumar took oath administered by speaker assembly.
The House proceeded to discuss the bill, where Jamaat-e-Islami’s parliamentary leader Anayatullah addressed the assembly.
The JI lawmaker said that Malakand should be given an extensible tax amnesty for 10 years and rs100 billion annual development package should be given to KP similar as FATA.
CM KP Pervaiz Khattak also addressed the KP assembly, where he said that that people have been accusing him of taking bribe from caretaker CM.
“Please don’t bring up allegations,” said Pervaiz Khattak, adding that those levelling blame should provide evidence as well.
Resolution approved to exempt PATA from taxes for 10 years
A resolution was approved in the assembly to exempt Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) from taxes for a time period of 10 years.
The resolution was presented by Dr Haider Ali in the House, which was signed by all the parliamentary leaders of the political parties except for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl.
The resolution demanded a development package of rs 100 billion for the PATA, same as the FATA region. It also demanded subsidy on electricity.
The resolution also asked for continuation of Sharia justice system in the Malakand Division.
Protesters clash with police outside KP Assembly
Earlier, protesters clashed with police outside the KP assembly over the merger bill. The police are said to have baton-charged the protesters to stop them from entering the assembly building. The police also shelled tear-gas and used water cannons to disperse the protesters.
However, the protesters, who are reported to be members of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, pelted stones at the police officers.
Five people have sustained minor injuries while as many as 20 people have been detained.
The JUI-F lawmakers had reached the assembly building Sunday morning to besiege it in protest.
Earlier, lawmakers of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) had expressed their reservations over the FATA-KP merger bill.
In wake of the situation, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led provincial government had approached the lawmakers to resolve the building crisis.
It was learnt that 24 MPAs from Malakand Division had expressed their reservations over the content of the bill.
The PATA lawmakers maintain that inclusion of PATA in FATA-KP merger was unjustifiable, and if the government wanted to change the status of PATA it should announce a monetary package for the area.
Meanwhile, KP minister Shaukat Yousafzai had met Federal Law Minister Zafarullah Khan and apprised him on the issues the provincial government faced in getting the bill passed from the assembly.
Yousufzai told media that the federal government had promised to resolve the concerns raised by PATA lawmakers.
Declare PATA, FATA tax-free for 10 years: Asad Qaiser
The concerns of PATA lawmakers have been taken up in a letter that KP Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser wrote to his National Assembly counterpart Ayaz Sadiq, demanding that PATA and FATA be declared as tax-free zones for at least 10 years.
Qaiser stated that the two regions have been exempted from taxes since a long time, which is fair as the areas are badly affected by insurgencies and internal displacement of people due to military operations and natural calamities.
Since the constitutional amendment would result in withdrawal of tax exemptions from the tribal areas, MPAs from PATA have shown concern over passage of the bill, the letter reads.
Qaiser had requested Sadiq to provide the sought exemptions on an urgent basis before voting started on the amended bill in KP Assembly.
Thirty-First Amendment Act, 2018
The National Assembly and Senate had already passed the bill titled Thirty-First Amendment Act, 2018. In the lower house, the bill was moved by Minister for Law and Justice Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk.
Two hundred and twenty-nine parliamentarians voted in favour of the constitutional amendment, while one voted against it. The bill was opposed by government-allied parties JUI-F and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
In Senate, 71 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill while five opposed the constitutional amendment.