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    Posted March 15, 2014 by
    Peshawar, Pakistan
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    Centuries old law made People life worst in Fata,Pakistan


    FATA Reforms committee, formulated in 2010 with the consensus of 11 political parties of Pakistan, is now actively working for basic reforms but says without changes to Pakistan's constitution no real change will happen.

    Despite a series of amendments, the law governing Pakistan's tribal areas -- dating back more than a century, to colonial rule -- is still harsh and violates basic human rights, residents and experts say. They say that while militancy and insecurity have made it difficult to implement even minor changes, the main obstacle is that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are governed under a parallel legal system to that of the rest of Pakistan.

    The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) is a 1901 legal, administrative and judicial framework for governing FATA enacted by British colonial authorities as a way to keep the area's unruly Pashtun tribes under control. Administrative officials, called political agents, were appointed by the central government and given wide powers including that of detention without review and collective punishment. The political agent was also given large amounts of money to secure the loyalty of local tribal leaders.

    The FCR was adopted by an independent Pakistan in 1947 and is widely criticized as a breach of human rights.Currently, FATA is under direct rule by the federal government but federal laws, which govern the rest of Pakistan, do not apply in the region.

    The FCR was amended by the former Pakistan Peoples Party government through executive order in 2011 with the aim of bringing it into line with Pakistan's penal code and giving FATA residents the same legal rights as other Pakistanis including the right to access Pakistan's court system.

    FATA's population, estimated in the 1998 census -- the most recent -- at 3.2 million spread over 11,000 square miles, is governed directly by Pakistan's federal government and the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Civil servants are appointed as political agents by the federal government and hold legislative, judicial, and executive authority.

    As part of his administrative functions, the political agent oversees the working of line departments and service providers. He is responsible for handling inter-tribal disputes over boundaries or the use of natural resources, and for regulating the trade in natural resources with other districts within FATA or with the provinces. The political agent plays a supervisory role for development projects and chairs an agency development sub-committee, comprising various government officials, to recommend proposals and approve development projects. He also serves as project coordinator for rural development schemes.

    Previous to the 2011 amendments, only tribal leaders and elders were allowed to vote in national elections for handpicked candidates. Now all adults can vote but despite a change in the law that allows for the organization of political parties, no candidate ran as a member of a party in the previous national elections. The amendments do not, however, allow for elections at the local level and FATA members of the Pakistani parliament still have no authority to pass legislation for the area as it remains under direct executive authority of the president of Pakistan.

    The changes to the FCR also created the FATA tribunal made up of one retired judge and a senior civil servant of Pakistan. When residents are accused of a crime and arrested, the authorities must produce the accused in front of the tribunal within 24 hours. Residents can also use the tribunal to appeal a verdict

    Despite the fact that the amendments have allowed for greater political participation and an improved judicial system, experts say it is simply not enough and that the key issue is Pakistan's constitution itself.

    Khadim Hussain, FATA affairs expert and the managing director at the Bacha Khan Trust Education Foundation, told this scribe that while FATA has an ongoing problem with insecurity and economic depression which has hindered the implementation of the FCR amendments, the real problem is Pakistan's constitution.

    "These cosmetic changes can't be implemented because currently FATA has been sandwiched between local-international militants and military establishment," Hussain said.

    He went on to say that the full implementation of the FCR reforms would require changes in the language in Pakistan's constitution to include FATA in the jurisdiction of the Pakistani parliament, Supreme Court of Pakistan and other high courts"The High Court's jurisdiction should be extended to FATA or an appellate bench of the high court should be formulated in FATA for justice to FATA population," Hussain told this scribe.

    Javed Mehsood, the assistant political agent based in Bannu, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders FATA, disagrees that such a change is needed. He told Voice of America in a training session at the judicial academy in Peshawar was he talking to a training session that people consider the FCR law as a "black law," one that is against human rights, but it is not what people think.

    "FCR is valid law according to the lifestyle of Fata residents," Mehsood told VOA.

    Recently, a case was reported about the arrest of two students under the collective punishment provision of the FCR. In FATA, under the FCR, the entire tribe can be held responsible for an individual's crime. Despite an amendment that excludes women, children and the elderly from being part of the collective punishment clause, the practice continues. In the case of the two students arrested for a relative's crime, they were kept in captivity for three weeks.

    Alhaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi, a National Assembly member from FATA told this scribe that it is difficult to implement FCR amendments in the region, "There is need of administrative changes in the political administration of FATA then FCR implementation would be able to implement," Shah Jee Gul told this scribe via phone.

    He further said that how it will be possible to do reforms in FCR when political administration have the independent authority and their decision can't be challenged in any court of Pakistan. "Article-247 of Pakistani constitution should be amended to include FATA into the jurisdiction of parliament, high courts and Supreme Court of pakistan," Afridi added.

    Kaleem Khan, a 28-year-old resident of FATA says despite an amendment to a provision allowing children and women to be detained for the crimes of their tribal elders, the practice is ongoing. "The amendments made in FCR is just superficial changes.”

    Some observers say the political agent's wide powers need to be scaled back. Currently, the federal government's representative is the executive, judicial as well as legislative authority in the region. He has the full power to do anything with anyone in his area for any reason.

    Umar Daraz Wazir, FATA-based senior journalist affiliated with "Mashaal" radio of Voice of America, said that political administration is big hindrance in the implementation of reforms made in FCR, "They [political agents] don't want to flatten their unlimited authority given to them as per FCR law."

    "Political agents can send anyone behind bar for no reason which is clear violation of United Nations Human rights declaration," Wazir said. "Elders and influential people of Fata tribes are not present in the region because of militancy in the area and there is no one to ask from the political administration that why amendments made in FCR are not implemented in the region.”

    The committee also had given suggestion for separation of judicial and executive power in FATA region which is currently confined to the political administration.

    Abdul Qayum Afridi, a FATA-based freelance journalist, pointed out that media is barred from fully covering FATA's activities. Because of this, residents are often unaware that they have some new rights under the FCR.

    "Media should be given full permission and security in the region to keep close eyes on the activities of political administration and to disclose the anti-law practices in FATA region," Afridi told this scribe.

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