Opening the doors of superior courts, public participation through local governments, massive reforms in FCR and creation of judicial structures proposed
Islamabad December 10, 2015: Speakers at a seminar organized at a local hotel in Islamabad today called for carrying forward the process of political reforms in the tribal areas and to give basic rights of justice and participation to the people of tribal areas.
The seminar organized under the auspices of Shaheed Bhutto Foundation and addressed by members of parliament, diplomats and lawyers also said that the driver for change in FATA must come from within and not imposed from outside. Those who addressed included Nafisa Shah MNA, Bushra Gohar former MNA, Ex- Ambassadors Khalid Mahmood and Ayaz Wazir, Advocate Rahim Shah Afridi president FATA lawyers Forum, Dr Ashraf Ali and Senator Farhatullah Babar.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that reforms and mainstreaming FATA has been opposed for long by vested interests on the ground that the people of tribal areas did not want change.
The notion that the tribal people did not favour democratic parliamentary elections was disproved when the principle of adult franchise was extended to the tribal areas and its people including women enthusiastically participated in the elections.
Some people assert that political parties should not be allowed to operate in tribal areas as it will create a law and order situation.
However, this too was disproved when the political parties’ order 2002 was extended to the tribal areas by the previous PPP government and the people of tribal areas voted in the 2013 party based general elections in a very peaceful and orderly manner.
He said that FATA was unique as it was remote controlled both in times of peace and war. During peace time, the tribal areas were remote controlled from Islamabad in the name of the President and from Peshawar by the governor acting as the agent of the president. During war time it was attacked by drones that were remote controlled from the CIA headquarter in Virginia. Insteadof remote control FATA needs to have structures for self governance.
Farhatullah Babar said that under Article (1) of the Constitution tribal areas were part of Pakistan and therefore its people were entitled to the same fundamental rights as enjoyed by people of other areas of the country. However, Article 247 (7) of the Constitution barred the superior courts from having any say in the tribal areas thereby closing the doors of courts on its people for enforcement of their fundamental rights. He said that both the Peshawar High Court and the provincial assembly of KPK had pointed out this anomaly and asked the federal government to enact legislation to remove this anomaly.
He said that a senate committee had already approved a private member bill seeking to delete sub clause 7 from Article 247 of the Constitution so as to open the doors of superior courts to the people of tribal areas for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. The former President Asif Ali Zardari had also addressed a letter to the Prime Minister urging the government to adopt the private member’s bill but the PM had not yet responded to it.
He said that Pakistan was a security driven state instead of a welfare driven state. That explained the traditional resistance by a powerful section of the establishment to reforms and change in FATA because in its view political reforms would undermine the security calculus. The opposing view he said is that political reforms and self governance in FATA would ultimately strengthen and not weaken the security of tribal areas and the country as a whole.
Later during question answer session he said that a section of the establishment had advised former President Zardari not to announce the FATA reforms just a few hours before his address to the nation on the eve of independence day in 2009 even after all preparations had been made. A middle path was adopted under which Zardari only announced that far reaching reforms were being introduced in FATA without giving details which were contained only in the official press release of the speech. The delay in the implementation of the FATA reforms is an interesting subject for investigative journalism he said.
He said that the unprecedented ISPR press release of last month pointing out civilian failures in the implementation of NAP had also cited lack of progress in reforms in tribal areas as an area of
concern. This provided a rare opportunity to the government of Mian Nazwaz Sharif to take the bull by the horns and implement the reform agenda in tribal areas in consultation with the tribal people. The
sting from the objection that reforms in tribal areas will undermine national security has been taken out even tough unwittingly, he said.
He said that the setting up of local governments was a Constitutional obligation and every one demanded LB polls for setting up duly empowered local governments in the provinces and asked why the same enthusiasm was not in evidence when it came to local self governments