FATA protesters calls PM assurance another “Lollipop”

ISLAMABAD: Protesters from FATA demanding merger of FATA with KPK called the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi assurance to implement FATA reforms another “Lollipop”.

Thousands of tribesmen converged on the federal capital and amassed at D-Chowk, a stone’s throw from the spot where Imran Khan had remained camped in his container during the 2014 sit-in outside Parliament House.

However, the tribesmen did not seek to breach the high security zone and gathered around a container placed at one end of Jinnah Avenue, near the old Parade Ground, where Fata lawmakers and leaders from nearly all KP-based political parties made impassioned speeches in favour of their demands.

 Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called their representatives over for a meeting. The contingent, led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) KP leader Amir Muqam, met the PM to press for their demands, which include repealing the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), and extending the Constitution of Pakistan and the jurisdiction of the superior courts to the tribal areas.

A statement issued by the PM Office claimed that the delegates which included Fata lawmakers Shahjee Gul Afridi, Shahabuddin Khan, Mohammad Nazir Khan, Sajjad Turi and Sajid Turi  had expressed satisfaction over the PM’s assurances.

However, a number of youth and trade union leaders were not happy with what they termed “another lollipop” and had resolved to continue the sit-in on their own, said Nizamuddin Khan, an activist from Fata.

He told media that some participants of the sit-in had left after hearing the initial announcement from Amir Muqam. However, around midnight, D-Chowk was in darkness and only a dozen stragglers were left there.

The #FataDharna, as it was dubbed on social media, was held to protest the inordinate delay in the passage of the reforms package, which was finalised by the Fata Reforms Committee and approved by the federal cabinet earlier this year.

The sit-in had been on the cards ever since the government announced in parliament it was deferring a decision on the proposal to merge Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to opposition from the government allied Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

Earlier in the day, leaders from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Awami National Party, Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and Qaumi Watan Party took part in the sit-in and reached D-Chowk to show solidarity with the protesters.

Participants vowed to continue the protest until their demands were met and called on President Mamnoon Hussain to intervene and address the issue.

ANP President Asfandyar Wali said that the decision to merge Fata with KP was made by the people of Fata, calling for its implementation and the abolition of the regressive FCR.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq said that some people in Islamabad did not believe Fata was a part of Pakistan.