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Political activities allowed in Tribal Areas, FCR reformed

13 August, 2011

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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday signed two orders that set into motion the far-reaching administrative, judicial and political reforms in the tribal areas.

The two orders signed by President Asif Ali Zardari were Amendments in the FCR (2011) and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 to the Tribal Areas.

President Zardari signed the important documents here at Aiwan-e-Sadr in the presence of a number of representatives from Fata, besides Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Chairman of Senate Farooq H Naek, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Fehmida Mirza, KPK Governor Massod Kausar and Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, and federal ministers.

The signing ceremony was held in the jam-packed hall of the Presidency which was witnessed by tribal elders drawn from all the seven tribal agencies, five frontier regions, Fata parliamentarians, provincial cabinet of KPK, diplomats, representative of Shaheed Bhutto Foundation, civil society members, mediapersons and representatives of a number of NGOs.

Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that representatives of various political parties, who had earlier formed a multi-party Joint Committee on Fata reforms, also witnessed the signing ceremony. The Committee members had called on the President in March this year urging for early implementation of the promised reforms.

The political parties represented at the event included ANP, PML-N, JI, PPP-S, PML-Q, MQM-S, NP, PkMAP and JUI-F.

Tribal elders, parliamentarians from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and representatives of political parties behind the President`s desk signalled the broad-based consensus of all stakeholders as the driving force behind the reforms package.

Speaking on the occasion President Asif Ali Zardari said that his head bowed in gratitude before Allah Almighty for having fulfilled yet another promise made with the people of Fata.

He congratulated the tribesmen for harmonizing reforms with their tribal customs and traditions.

He said the legal and political reforms would rid the tribal people from a century of bondage and usher them into mainstream of national life while respecting local customs and traditions.

The President said some may say that the reforms are not enough and much more needs to be done adding "Let it also not be forgotten that no one even took a single step in the last one hundred years to reform the FCR and give political rights to the people".

President Zardari responding to the demand for making Fata a province said, making a province is not a simple process.

He, on this occasion, accepted the demand to set up a hospital in Fata and assured that it will be constructed on fast track.

Talking to the media explaining the salient features of the reforms package, Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that contrary to past practice an accused shall have right to bail and it will be mandatory to produce him before the concerned authority within 24 hours of arrest.

He said women, children below 16 and those aged above 65 shall not be arrested or detained under Collective Responsibility.

He said amendments have been announced in the FCR after 110 years at it was first announced in 1901 and under the reformed FCR, the women and children would be exempted from territorial responsibility.

He said that henceforth the whole tribe will not be arrested under the Collective Responsibility clause. Step-wise action will be taken - first immediate male members of family followed by sub-tribe and then by other sections of the tribe, he said.

Cases will now be disposed of in a fixed timeframe and checks placed on arbitrary power of arrest under the notorious Section 40A of the FCR.

Appeals will lie before Appellate Authority comprising of Commissioner and a dedicated Additional Commissioner (Judicial) to be notified by the Governor.

The reforms envisage setting of a Fata Tribunal headed by Chairman and two other members out of whom one shall be a person who has been civil servant of not less than BPS 20 having experience of Tribal Administration and other member shall be a person qualified to be appointed as Judge of High Court well conversant with Rewaj.

The Fata Tribunal shall exercise power of revision against orders/judgments of Appellate Authority and shall have powers similar to High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution.

A new section has been added providing for action for false prosecution in civil and criminal matters. Under it the defendant will be entitled to adequate compensation in criminal matters and compensatory costs in civil matters.

He said that no person shall be deprived of his property without adequate compensation as per prevailing market value in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 procedure in settled areas.

For the first time the funds at the disposal of the Political Agent shall be audited by Auditor General of Pakistan, the spokesperson said.

Section 58A has been added to make provision for jail inspections by Fata Tribunal, Appellate Authority and Political Agent. Rules will be framed for regulating the Agency Welfare Fund.

Farhatullah Babar said that the reforms hammered out after consultation with all stakeholders was approved in principle on August 12, 2009 in a meeting in the Presidency that was also attended by the prime minister. The meeting had left it to the President to announce it any time he deemed fit.

The signing today has made the process of reforms irreversible, he said. Any attempt to undo it will require dismantling of consensus among the stake holders and another Order to be signed by the President, Farhatullah Babar said.

Henceforth the political parties, subject to appropriate regulations to be framed, will be freely allowed to operate in the tribal areas and present their socio-economic programmes on the one hand and the century old Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) will be tamed to make it responsive to the human rights of the people, he said.

The permission to political parties to sell their programmes in tribal areas will counter the pernicious one sided campaign of militants to impose their ideological agenda on the people rejecting the state, the Constitution, democracy and indeed our very way of life, he said.

End.

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