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Published Date: Jan 23, 2018

Bill seeking extension of courts’ jurisdiction to Fata has ambiguities: Senator

Senator Farhatullah Babar on Monday said the recent bill passed by the National Assembly regarding extension of the jurisdiction of Supreme Court of Pakistan and Peshawar High Court to Fata had major ambiguities.
“Is the purpose of this bill a political point scoring or to give the people their fundamental rights?” the PPP lawmaker said at a roundtable, ‘Fata reforms: the current trends and way forward’ organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Senator Babar said there was confusion in the bill that the courts’ jurisdictions would be extended to selected areas in piecemeal. “Why should it be extended to villages and tehsils only and not to the entire region?”
He termed the bill an act with mala fide intent and said the people of tribal areas had waited for 70 long years to get access to justice and fundamental rights and now through this dubious mechanism they would be deprived of their rights for another half a century.
He demanded the immediate application of the law to the whole of Fata.
However, Shahabuddin Khan, a PML-N parliamentarian from Fata, said the tribal people had supported the legal step to extend the jurisdictions of the courts to their area, adding it was a stepping stone towards the reforms.
He said the people of Fata were continuously betrayed and exploited in the name of so-called customs and Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR).
“Since 1947, Fata has been left alone and was made an open battlefield on the doctrine of necessity and no political party came forward for our rescue and welfare,” said Mr Khan.
He said it was the youth of Fata who raised their voices and started aggressive campaigns for their fundamental rights irrespective of their party affiliations.
Other speakers, including retired Justice Mian Mohammad Ajmal, former senator Afrasiab Khattak of the ANP and senior journalist Zahid Hussain, said there was a need to amend or repeal Article 247 of the Constitution to implement the Bill. If the government does not do this the passage of the Bill will be of no use.
The speakers said FCR was an injustice to the people of Fata where people were deprived of basic human rights and that some state forces had their vested interest in the area.