ISLAMABAD: Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday signed a landmark constitutional amendment bill to merge restive tribal region along the Afghan border with the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, bringing an end to the 150-year-old British-era arrangement.
The bill was passed by the National Assembly, the Senate and KP Assembly before being sent to the president for formal approval.
After signing the bill, the president congratulated the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Geo TV reported.
The bill amends several Articles of the Constitution including Article 1 that defines the territory of Pakistani federation.
The law was signed on the last day of present government as its five-year tenure will end at midnight.
President Hussain congratulated the people of FATA and said the merger would open up an era of prosperity and development for its people and help them progress in all spheres of life. He said the nation needed to work together to fully benefit from this historic opportunity. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who played a key role in bringing consensus to pass the amendment in the National Assembly had said that it will “change 150-year-old system in the tribal areas.”
The Head of the FATA Reforms Committee Sartaj Aziz said following the constitutional amendment the people of the federally administered tribal areas were now mainstreamed and would enjoy equal rights like other citizens of the country.
He said all the agencies of FATA would now convert into districts and the assistant political agents would now serve as deputy commissioners.
He said Rs 1 trillion would be spent on the development of the area over a period of next ten years. Of the total amount, 25 per cent would be spent through the local bodies for the development of infrastructure in health, education, roads, communications and other projects.
The amendment abolished more than century old and draconian law called Frontiers Crimes Regulation which prescribed collective responsibility of family and tribe for crimes committed by a single individual.
The semi-autonomous tribal region was created by British colonizer as a buffer zone to avoid direct conflict with Afghanistan.
It consists of seven districts – Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan – which stretch along the border with Afghanistan, and became known in the world due to presence of militants who fled the porous border after US forces invaded Afghanistan post-9/11.
These seven districts are home to some eight million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns.