Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) workers on Sunday gathered outside the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa assembly, blocking access to the building in a bid to prevent lawmakers from approving the constitution amendment bill for the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The JUI-F has been opposing the bill and demanding a referendum to seek assent of tribal people before Fata’s merger with KP.
JUI party workers, including workers from Fata, gathered outside the KP assembly early Sunday morning and threatened to put padlocks on the assembly gates to ensure that no one is able to make it inside the premises for the session scheduled for 2pm.
"We will not let the Fata merger bill be approved," the protesters chanted as they started burning tires on the road leading to the assembly.
District administration and the police have been trying to convince the protesters to vacate the area in front of the main entrance and continue their protest outside the back gate of the assembly. Large contingents of police have been deployed in the area.
According to reports, the protesters started pelting policemen and media vehicles with stones. Police have resorted to tear gas shelling and baton-charge to control the crowd.
All political parties are hopeful that the KP Assembly, in today's session — to be held just a day before its dissolution on the completion of its five-year term — will manage to validate the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Reforms Bill already passed by the two houses of parliament seeking merger of Fata with the province with the required two-thirds majority.
If the bill does not get through the KP Assembly, then the fate of Fata merger will be in the hands of new representatives to be elected in the coming general elections. Even after its passage from the National Assembly and the Senate, the president will have to wait to give his assent till the installation of the new assembly.
Bill in final stages
The provincial government had reportedly sent a summary to the governor on Friday — soon after the passage of the constitution amendment bill from the Senate — for summoning a session of the assembly at 2pm on Sunday (today). The session has been convened only to give its approval to the historic bill that would erase the colonial-era division between tribal areas and the province.
After the provincial assembly’s approval the landmark bill will bring the tribal borderlands, comprising seven agencies and six Frontier Regions, to the mainstream and they will be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly through the amendment.
Even though the bill has been passed by both houses of the parliament, Article 239(4) of the Constitution says that the president cannot assent a constitutional amendment bill which affects geographical boundaries of a province without approval by the assembly of that province.
Article 239(4) of the Constitution reads, “A bill to amend the Constitution which would have the effect of altering the limits of a province shall not be presented to the president for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly of that province by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership.”