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Pakistan adopts bill to merge tribal areas at Afghan border with NW province

Police officers stand guard at the provincial assembly building during a protest against the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province, in Peshawar, Pakistan May 27, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

The provincial assembly of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has approved a bill to merge the restive tribal regions along the Afghan border with its territory after getting the parliament’s go-ahead.

The assembly on Sunday adopted a constitutional amendment seeking the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the northwestern province.

The amendment bill, which had been approved earlier by the lower and upper houses of the Pakistani parliament, now goes to President Mamnoon Hussain to be signed into law.

Haji Abdul Rehman, a tribal elder from the Mohmand tribal area and member of the Grand Tribal Jirga (Council), welcomed the move, saying it will give the tribes rights that other Pakistanis enjoy, in addition to bringing development and facilities to the region.

The regions, home to about 5 million people, remain effectively lawless and in recent years have become a haven for militants.

However, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Party voiced opposition to the move, saying the region's population should have been consulted before any decision was taken.

A protest is held against the constitutional amendment bill on the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in front of province assembly, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on May 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The party’s supporters gathered outside the Assembly, trying to block entry into the building. Police used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, promoting clashes with the participants.

Neighboring Afghanistan has also expressed reservation over the move, reiterating that such a decision needs consensus among locals.

The Pakistani government has, however, dismissed Kabul’s stance, saying the parliament’s decision reflects the will of the people.

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