Fata should be “de-colonised” first, says Afrasiab Khattak.
ISLAMABAD: Well-known lawmakers and human rights experts discussed threadbare a report formulated by a high-level committee about reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) at a consultative meeting organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Saturday, and said it had several flaws that should be removed before it was implemented.
However, they maintained that the report had several merits too.
The report — prepared by a committee headed by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and comprising Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor, federal ministers for law and Safron and the national security adviser — has already been tabled in parliament.
Speaking at the meeting entitled “Fata reforms: move forward and not back”, HRCP’s general secretary I.A. Rehman said the reforms package might serve to further restrict the freedoms of the people of Fata.
“We don’t want to interfere in the culture of [the people] but we also don’t want any practical steps to stop the natural development of culture and keep it as it was in the past,” he said.
After amendments were made in the existing law “we may have to start a new struggle to get freedoms for the [Fata] people. So the report should be debated thoroughly,” Mr Rehman said.
The report suggested that jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and high court should be extended to Fata but at the same time a Riwaj Act had been proposed under which courts would not be able to give decisions against the act, he said.
The report suggested that Fata should be merged with KP but the province is already divided into two distinct areas — its settled areas and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas. “So, after merging with Fata, KP will be divided into three parts.”
Senator Farhatullah Babar said the report contained good suggestions as well as some bad ones.
In a pointed reference to the possible political crises ahead, he said: “But we should try to accomplish whatever is possible [in the time available] because it is feared that some changes might occur in the next three to four months.”
He said if the report was adopted for implementation through legislation, the president would remain the head of Fata and parliament would not be able to carry out legislative work, much like today.
“The name of the Frontier Crimes Regulations will be changed but customs might not be changed. Moreover, there is no mention of the non-state actors. The situation in Fata cannot be improved unless the Afghan policy is revisited,” he said.
He said the report suggested that an officer of BPS-22 would be appointed as chief executive of the region. “But I have a feeling that it will be a serving general; so the name of the position should be changed.”
Fata should be merged with KP in phases and local government elections should be held there by the end of next year.
“The Riwaj Act should be debated in parliament and people of Fata should get representation in the provincial assembly,” he said.
Former Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel welcomed the fact that “the military establishment has finally realised the need for reforms in Fata”.
Nasreen Azhar of the HRCP said that in case Fata was to be merged with KP, there was no need for the Riwaj Act.
Shah Jee Gul Afridi, an MNA from Khyber Agency, said that an overwhelming majority of the people in Fata were in favour of the reforms.
Former Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that Fata should be “de-colonised” first. -DN
THE PASHTUN TIMES