Rare unity

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There was a rare show of unity in the National Assembly on Monday as it passed the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill by a majority of 278 votes to increase the number of seats for the tribal districts in the national and provincial assemblies.

With the passage of the bill, the number of NA seats for ex-Fata representatives go up from six to 12, and KP Assembly seats from 16 to 24. The bill also seeks four reserved seats for women and one for minorities.

Another rare occurrence was the presence of the Prime Minister Imran Khan who speaking on the occasion said the bill will give the people of the tribal districts the impression that they are important to us.

Making use of the opportunity, he spoke of a thorny issue of three per cent share from the National Finance Commission for the development of the ex- Fata as it was, in his view, important for reconstruction efforts after the war on terror in the region. He referred to the East Pakistan fiasco wherein people felt a lack of inclusion and representation. This feeling of alienation has been and is being exploited by our enemies, said the PM.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi emphasized the need for a consensus on modalities for extra funding for the ex-Fata. Abbasi stated that the number of seats given to the tribal districts will have an effect on the country’s politics. He also raised a pertinent question, an answer to which may come in the days ahead, that without a proper sense of the population in the troubled region implying there was no clear rationale behind increasing the number of seats?

While the PM is right in principle, he should take practical steps to liaise with the opposition parties and reach a consensus on what can be done to help the tribal districts. The support from the opposition and the provinces is important and no government can do without it. There is also a need to see what happened to the Rs100 billion ‘every year for next ten years’ promise? And also can the government make use of the recommendations prepared by the Sartaj Aziz committee during the previous tenure? Similarly, if the three per cent share from the NFC is to be agreed among the provinces, it won’t come without a bit of give-and-take with the provinces.