It appears that a process of political reforms initiated for the most neglected areas of the country, that is ex- FATA, is being discretely undone by depriving the people of merged tribal districts from representation in Senate. The federal government seems to be averse to retaining eight seats of Senators in the upper house of the parliament. Speaker National Assembly, Asad Qaisar deferred on Tuesday a private member bill to retain the seats of erstwhile FATA in Senate. The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was tabled by an independent lawmaker Mohsin Dawar in the National Assembly under Article 59 for this purpose, which the chair deferred. I could have referred it to a Parliamentary Committee for deliberation.
Like the people of settled districts, tribesmen had a representation in the upper house of the parliament through eight Senators. They did make valuable contribution to legislative business that was done for the benefit of the people of the country. Out of the existing eight Senators four will retire in March next year and the tenure of remaining four will end in March 2024. It is quite flabbergasting that merged tribal districts will have their elected representatives in the National Assembly and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Assembly, but they will not have their Senators in Senate to raise voice for their legitimate rights.
Article 50 of 1973 constitution provides for equal representation to federating units in in Senate and it may be because of this constitutional provision that seats of ex-FATA Senator will stand abolished after expiry of the tenure of existing incumbents. The role of the Senate is to promote national integration, cohesion, harmony and to alleviate the fears of smaller provinces regarding domination by any province by virtue of its majority in the National Assembly. Each of the four provinces has 14 Senators on general seats, four women, four technocrats and one for non-Muslims. Manmade laws are always subject to necessary amendments in accordance with changing situations of political and administrative nature. Hence the Article of the Constitution about the bicameral legislature and creation of Senate and its composition is no exception.
The abolition of Senate Seats that represent the people of merged tribal districts will give lethal ammunition in the hands of leaders of JUI (F) and Pk MAP, who opposed tooth and nail the merger and mainstreaming of tribal areas. It is not equity and justice that people of settled have their representatives in Senate, whereas the tribesmen of merged districts will have none, It is pertinent to mention that Chief Minister Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan, in his write-up published in this daily, had described FATA merger as an “Epical event” by drawing an analogy with Marshall Plan, an American initiative passed in 1948 for the economic development of Western Europe, which was devastated by the second world war. The merged tribal districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa have also been devastated by the war against global terrorism. The role of members of Senate in socio-economic uplift of the people had been determined by an elected government in 1986, which the Senators of ex-FATA had appreciably performed. The retention of eight Senate seats for the merged tribal districts seems justified.