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Due share for tribal areas.

In what marks the first time in the nine months of the current setup, the government and the opposition showed unity of thought and action on an issue coming up in parliament. This rare show of unity ensured that people from Fata - as it existed formerly - had a better representation both at the Centre and in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the province of which the once-semi-autonomous tribal region has been made part of. Now under the 26th Constitution Amendment Bill 2019, unanimously passed by the lower house of parliament on Monday, the number of erstwhile Fata seats will be 12 in the National Assembly and 24 in the K-P provincial assembly as against the recommendation - of 6 and 16 respectively - made by the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

While the bill required the mandatory two-thirds majority, not a single vote was cast against the bill and all the 282 members present in the 342-strong House voted in its favour. The House also showed consensus on the provision of Rs100 billion funds to the people of the tribal areas for a period of 10 years to stimulate development in the region. Besides, through an amendment, the time set for the elections in the tribal region was extended from one year to 18 months in view of the time required for carrying out delimitation of constituencies in the wake of an increase in the number of seats.

There can be no two opinions that the inhabitants of the tribal areas have suffered like no other people in the country. Even after Independence, they remained subjected to the draconian FCR enacted in 1901 to protect the interests of the British Empire, and that speaks of the apathy of the successive governments towards their own people. Bearing the brunt of war over the last four decades - first in the shape of Afghan Jihad and then the War on Terror - the people of these areas remained mired in backwardness and were left to struggle for their basic human rights as well as identification as equal citizens of the country.

Now that everything looks perfect on the legislation side, it remains to be seen how the implementation side of the historic mainstreaming move works out.

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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:May 15, 2019
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