Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
During last few days I have missed you a lot. I hope you and your team at the Peace and Freedom will be alright. Some interesting developments have been taking place in Pakistan nowadays.
The most interesting event is the announcement of prime minister Gilani about the revoking of Frontier Crime Regulation.
The tribal areas are being governed through Frontier Crime Regulation.
The prime minister announcement has created legal vacuum in the tribal areas.
It is interesting to note that Taliban militants have welcomed the announcement as they think now the tribal areas will be handed over to them. A political observer in his comment stated that the authors of the prime minister’s speech to the National Assembly on Saturday probably had no understanding of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the laws that govern it. Why else would Yusuf Raza Gilani announce the abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation without actually knowing what the 1901 British law is going to be replaced with and more importantly: what would be its implications?
Little wonder then that at least two of the PPP’s allies, both from the NWFP the Awami National Party and the JUI (F) came out with reservations.
The ANP acknowledged that while its leadership had been consulted about “generalities”, it had not been consulted on the specifics of FCR, which, according to the ANP’s provincial president, Afrasiab Khattak, is the “most investigated and non-implemented law”.
The ANP, he said, would like to retain the FCR with some amendments, something that the JUI (F) and a vast majority of the tribesmen would also like to see.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman told Dawn he too was not consulted and warned that any such move would entail grave implications for Pakistan.
The FCR presently in vogue in the seven federally administered tribal regions and six Frontier Regions basically explains relationship between the state and the tribes on the one hand through an indirect form of governance; and on the other lays down procedure for dealing with inter-tribal matters.
But the British-era law has been coming in under a lot of criticism from human rights activists, the civil society as well as a section of the tribal people.
The very draconian nature of some sections of the law, chiefly the Frontier Crimes Regulation 40, a preventive law pertaining to good conduct that has been grossly misused by the political administration to keep people under detention for longer periods of time than the stipulated three years for peace-keeping it provides for on non-acceptance of sureties by the accused.
The other most controversial sections of the law pertain to collective responsibility and territorial responsibility.Section 21 (Collective Responsibility) empowers the administration to direct the confiscation of all or any member of a tribe and all or any property belonging to them or anyone of them, if the tribe, or any section or member of such a tribe, are found acting in a hostile manner towards the government or towards people in the country.
Section 22 (territorial responsibility) empowers the administration to impose a fine on an entire village if there appear to be good reasons to believe that the inhabitants of the village have connived with, or abetted in the commission of an offence or failed to render assistance in their power to discover the offender or to effect their arrest.
Article 246 and 247 of the Constitution deals with the tribal areas — both the federally administered as well as the provincially administered tribal areas. The Constitution also states that the parliament cannot legislate for the tribal regions unless the president so directs.
The irony is that legislators from Fata can take part in legislation for the whole country but not for their own regions. The power to repeal or introduce any regulation in the tribal regions thus rests with the president.Analysts warn that any move to repeal or introduce any regulation in the tribal regions would require delicate handling.
What happened in the provincially administered Malakand region following the Supreme Court’s verdict in 1995 that had declared PATA regulation as ultra vires of the Constitution is now for all to see.That decision created a legal vacuum in Malakand and led to an armed rebellion by Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi calling for the enforcement of shariah to replace the defunct PATA regulation “a problem that continues to haunt the government in Swat.”
Analysts point out to Fata’s special status, its accession to Pakistan and the treaties that Pakistan inherited from the British Empire as a dominion state, an issue also highlighted by Maulana Fazlur Rehman in his speech to the National Assembly on Saturday.
Even if any decision has to be taken, argue these analysts, the tribal people would have to be involved and consulted while introducing any law to govern their way of life. Opinion is divided over the FCR and system of administration in Fata, but most analysts agree that FCR should be retained with some amendments, particularly by making it appealable before a special bench of the High Court.
It requires very delicate handling. Changes in the FCR are the need of the hour. But let’s not create a Malakand-like situation in Fata where the state authority has already been challenged by different militant groups.
Any drastic decision is a sure recipe for disaster, cautioned one senior government official with previous experience in the tribal region.
Dear Sir, situation in tribal areas is still tense as terrorists and security forces have been exchanging fire regularly. The areas are in the grip of terror and fear.
Thank you very much,
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas, Pakistan