PESHAWAR - Majority of political and religious parties want tribesmen to decide whether they want Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata)’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or a separate province status for the region.Though some people back its present autonomous status after extension to Fata of laws being exercised in settled areas of the country, yet most of the leaders from the area told The Nation that imposition of any decision against the wishes of the people would aggravate the situation. The KP Assembly has already passed a resolution unanimously seeking Fata’s representation in the house.PPP Senior Minister Rahimdad Khan says his party would back the decision taken by tribesmen themselves. “We think tribesmen can choose what is best for them. So, let them decide it.” PPP will welcome if they wanted to get status like the one given to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) or merger with KP, he added.Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Provincial Ameer Prof Ibrahim Khan says weight should be given to tribesmen’s viewpoint about their future. “The best option is to take tribesmen on board and avoid imposing any imported decision on them”. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Provincial President Mukhtar Yusufzai has a different point of view. He says Fata’s present ‘autonomous and independent’ status must remain intact. To run tribal areas’ affairs smoothly and democratically, role of political agent should be abolished and all his powers should be transferred to an elected ‘Fata Jirga’, he adds.At present, JUI-F doesn’t have any clear stance on future status of the ill-governed tribal areas. JUI-F Provincial Ameer Sheikh Amanullah Khan, however, says that to come with a clear mind on the subject, “we are now holding a grand tribal jirga in Peshawar on July 15”. It will enable his party to decide in the light of jirga’s outcome, he explains.PML-Q advocates declaring Fata as a separate province. “Look, today, a new trend has developed that everyone demands to have a separate province,” PML-Q’s Provincial Organiser and MPA Nighat Orakzai says. “So, why people from tribal areas should not have a separate province. Certainly, it will benefit all, if tribesmen are able to run their affairs and generate revenue. Besides, it will also minimise burden of tribal people on KP,” she opines.PML-N’s Provincial President Pir Sabir Shah says it will be better to respect tribesmen wishes in this regard. “They will opt the best choice for themselves.” It will be unfair and certainly counter-productive if someone else’s decision is imposed on them.” Backing his point of view, he maintains that tribesmen have different culture, thinking and way of living. So, it is necessary to uphold their specific status in taking a decision about their future. “We are utterly against Pakhtuns division. We want to see them together, as they have been divided under a conspiracy,” says PPP-S Provincial President Sikandar Sherpao. “But, in this case, we prefer to consult with tribesmen as they will choose what they consider best for them.”With a slight different notion, ANP’s Provincial Secretary Information Malak Mustafa also says tribesmen should decide their fate by themselves. “We will welcome any decision as we give weight to people’s choice”. But, in the same breath, he says its ‘crystal clear’ that majority of them want tribal areas’ merger with KP, which, he says is the best option. He, however, says those who don’t want to see prosperity in tribal belt are opposing this idea.

Fata enjoys a special position since long so it should not be changed at all. JUI-S endorses the option to keeping intact tribal areas’ present status with giving rights to its dwellers like that of being enjoyed by other Pakistanis, JUI-S Provincial Ameer Yousaf Shah says.PTI’s Provincial Coordinator Shah Farman says fundamentally only tribal people should decide about their future. “Applying democratic and fundamental rights rules, nobody but the tribal people can decide whether they want to go with KP or keep alone. Who am I to make a decision on Fata’s future status; it will be negation to democratic rules and fundamental rights if a decision is imposed on them.”