­ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Thursday that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were not being merged into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under any external pressure.

Addressing a news conference, Abbasi said that the merger was supported by all political parties. “There was no external pressure (from the United States and allies) on this issue. This is a unanimous decision,” he said.

The premier said the merger of Fata into KP had been part of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s manifesto. 

“Luckily, we got the support of the political parties. They termed it a good step and extended their support to the passage of the bill with clear two-thirds majority in the National Assembly,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the landmark “31st Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2018” was passed by the National Assembly.

The bill was moved by Law Minister Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal and the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party opposed the bill, however, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced its support for the sake of political unity.

As many as 229 members voted in the favour of the bill while 11 opposed it. The bill was approved clause by clause.

With the passing of the bill, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa laws will be immediately enforceable in FATA and it would also get Rs. 100 billion under the National Finance Commission award.

Under the bill, the laws of Pakistan will be applicable in Fata. In addition, Fata will get Rs1 billion every year for 10 years which will exclusively be for development in FATA.

Twelve 12 national and six provincial seats will remain intact till the elections of 2023. The Frontier Crimes Regulations will be abolished and it will be replaced with an interim governance system till the inclusion of the region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The seats of KP in the National Assembly will be increased from 48 to 60 after the merger of FATA. The seats for the KP Assembly will also increase to 147 from the current 126.

PM Abbasi said the government had formed the Fata reforms committee led by Sartaj Aziz that followed the constitution of an implementation committee comprising the chief minister and governor of KP, the army chief and other stakeholders.

He said after a threadbare debate, all the stakeholders evolved consensus to replace centuries-old tribal laws with the regular laws and merge the area with KP.

He said the bill had also given a timeframe for the local government to be held this year.

 “The provincial assembly election will be held within a year as delimitation and political system were yet to be established there,” he said.

PM Abbasi said under the bill, 12 National Assembly seats had been maintained though the area was entitled to six seats as per criteria.

 “Eight seats of Senate have also been protected. All Senate seats would fall vacant till 2024 and there would be no further election on those seats,” the premier said.

PM Abbasi had failed to convince his allies - the JUI-F and the PKMAP - to support the Fata merger but decided to go with the decision before bowing out. The government’s five-year term ends on May 31. JUI-F announced to quit the government in protest.

The federal cabinet approved the bill this week before it was presented in the National Assembly.

Pakistan military has fought a long and hard battle in Fata to bring peace in the historically lawless belt. The military defeated the militants and the internally displaced persons started returning to their homes.