Islamabad: In a major embarrassment for the Nawaz Sharif government, the Pakistani establishment's poster boy and chief of Jamait-Ulema-I- Islam (JUI-F)
Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that situation in FATA is worse than Kashmir.
Rehman is also the chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir. FATA stands for Federally-Administered Tribal Areas.
Participating in a discussion in the National Assembly on Friday, Rehman said, "There is no difference (in the condition) between the people of Kashmir and those living in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The people of FATA are living a life of misery."
Rehman lamented that the "suffering of the people of FATA is far worse than the Kashmir issue".
He said that Pakistan has no business talking about Kashmir when it is meting out a terrible deal to its own people in FATA.
He also criticized the media in Pakistan for being "obsessed" with the Kashmir issue and "ignoring" the problems in FATA.
He was particularly severe in his criticism of the ongoing Pakistan Army operation in FATA areas, claiming that only peaceful tribesmen are being targeted rather than the Taliban.
He said this was a terrible violation of human rights.
Taking the Pakistan state to task, Rehman said there was a need for a referendum on the issue of merging FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwas (KPK), adding that the people of FATA were not at all interested in such a merger and quite happy having an area that they could call their own.
Rehman further shocked the Sharif government by not making any reference to Kashmir or to the Indian Army's surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in his address, but chose instead to draw parallels between the Line of Control (LoC) and the Durand Line.
His description of the two lines as "undefined international borders" was endorsed by other senior leaders in the National Assembly including Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, who kept thumping his desk as endorsement of Rehman's point of view.
For practical purposes, the Pakistan Government was left red faced by Rehman assessment.
(With ANI inputs)