Published Date: Jan 23, 2018
The FATA bill passed by the National Assembly needs certain amendments due to “serious anomalies”, said Senator Farhatullah Babar on Monday as he demanded an “immediate application of the law to entire Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), not just villages and tehsils”.
The bill was sent to Senate after it was passed by the NA on Friday and extends the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (SC) and the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to FATA region.
Addressing a seminar at Sustainable Policy Development Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad, the senator said he will seek to rectify these “anomalies” by moving amendments.
Stating the problems with the bill, the senator stated: “First, the extension of court’s jurisdiction will be contingent upon a government notification even after its enactment”
“An official notification cannot supersede the will of parliament,” he said, adding that “parliament should not give its powers into the hands of the bureaucracy.”
Recalling the extension of judiciary’s power to Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, including Chitral, Dir, Swat, Malakand, the senator said that just like FATA, the superior courts initially also did not have jurisdiction over these areas; however, in 1973 this jurisdiction was extended through an act of parliament without requiring government notification.
Pointing out the different treatment meted out to FATA, he asked why it [the bill] was designed differently now, adding: “Is the purpose [behind such bill] was political point scoring and not giving the people their fundamental rights?”
Secondly, the court’s jurisdiction will be extended to selected tribal areas in piecemeal and asked as to why it must be extended to villages and tehsils only, and not to the entire region, the senator said.
He said that the people of tribal areas have waited for 70 long years to get access to justice and fundamental rights and now through this ‘dubious mechanism’ [the bill] they will be deprived of their rights for another half a century.
The senator said that piecemeal notifications of extending superior court’s jurisdiction will give rise to suspicions that it is being done to create an opening for Shakil Afridi’s release under foreign pressure.
He said he was not against Afridi’s release because he was not sentenced for facilitating operation against Osama bin Laden but sentenced under the Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) for an entirely unrelated alleged offence of helping Mengal Bagh.
The senator also rejected the objections of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) against the bill as unconstitutional. He said Article 175 (2) and 247 (7), both provided that legislation could be made by parliament for extending the jurisdiction of superior courts to a tribal area.
He said that after necessary amendments the legislation will be a giant leap forward in securing fundamental rights of people of tribal areas and for dismantling the colonial-era FCR.
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) in 2014 had asked that the jurisdiction of the superior court be extended to tribal areas, he said, adding that the provincial assembly of KP had also passed unanimous resolutions to this effect.