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Abdul Qadir Baloch, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions, held a meeting with FATA parliamentarians on Wednesday and informed them that the establishment does not want to remove the Frontier Crimes Regulation(FCR) nor does it seek to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This was stated by (FATA) MNA Shah Gee Gul Afridi while talking to Business Recorder. He accused Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) President Mahmood Khan Achakzai and JUI-F Chief Fazlur Rehman of pursuing a foreign agenda by opposing the reforms proposed by the government and added that "certain people have vested interests and this is the reason they don't want our people to be rid of slavery".

He further contended that Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Fazlur Rehman were making FATA reforms controversial through controversial statements. "They want to keep the people of FATA in the dark and are bent upon depriving them of their due rights. And that's why they oppose the mainstreaming of FATA," he added. He said the people who oppose FATA reforms are in fact those elements who did not support military courts which indicates that they have no desire to cleanse tribal areas of militancy and terrorism.

He said that Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Achakzai, with a track record of using religion, ethnicity and culture for their personal gains, do not want the people of FATA to get good education and become part of mainstream of the country. He said the literacy rate in Punjab has gone up so they will not be able to win a single seat from there, and by keeping areas like FATA in stone age conditions, they want to perpetuate their politics.

Answering a question, he said the government has made a commitment to get FATA reforms approved in Parliament and now it has to fulfill that commitment. He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken a bold step in identifying FATA reforms and now he should not backtrack under pressure from his allies.

He was skeptical that the Prime Minister who reportedly allows the advice of two to three people in his 'kitchen cabinet' to prevail, may be misguiding him on the bold initiative he has taken with respect to FATA reforms. He said the people of FATA had no access to education, healthcare, justice and other basic facilities of life, adding with the FATA reforms, the tribal people will have rights equal to people in other parts of the country.

"We support the FATA reforms and if these reforms are introduced, the people will have access to education, healthcare and other facilities," he added. Despite belonging to the ruling party, Shahabuddin Khan from FATA lashed out at his party's coalition partners and accused JUI-F of wanting to make the tribal region "a state within a state". Syed Ghazi Gulab Jamal from FATA stated that "first we want the return of all IDPs to FATA, and then reconstruction, rehabilitation and socioeconomic development. FATA should be merged with KP after the implementation of these steps by the government".

Dr Arif Alvi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said that FATA is part of Pakistan and laws of the country should be implemented in this area. He said that the government should merge FATA with KP as soon as possible and it should not use delaying tactics.

"We strongly condemn the statements of Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Achakzai. The Prime Minister should not remain silent and announce FATA reforms himself," he said.

Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari announced his full support to the movement for FATA reforms. He made this announcement after a meeting with a FATA delegation led by Shah Gee Gul Afridi at the Zardari House in Islamabad on Friday. We stand by the people of FATA to merge it with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Zardari stated.

"The PPP will participate, if the people of FATA hold protest and sit-in in Islamabad for their rights. I will give iftari to the people of FATA if they hold a protest in Ramazan," Zardari said. Zardari assured the parliamentarians of FATA that his party would raise the voice of the people of FATA both inside and outside the Parliament.

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