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March 2, 2017

The forgotten rights


March 2, 2017

Having learned from the atrocities and human rights violations committed in the Second World War, on December 10, 1948, the world predominantly vowed to entitle every human being to a basic set of human rights at Palais de Challot, Paris in the UN General Assembly by adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration entitles every human being to 30 basic rights including: the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to equality before the law, the right to remedy by competent tribunal, the right to fair public hearing, the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty and the freedom from State or personal interference in the above rights.

There exists a belt in Pakistan — Fata — where the aforementioned rights are an alien concept to the dwellers. The people of the region have been subjected to the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) since 1901. Among others, the primary and by far the most dangerous clauses of the FCR are: the bar to approaching a court of law for redressal of grievances and the application of collective punishment, disregarding individual culpability, which nullifies the above mentioned rights granted to them entirely.

The tyrannical set of laws in the FCR is a spin-off of the Murderous Outrages Regulation which was used by the British to counter the opposition of the Pakhtuns to the British rule. Notably, the notions of “collective responsibility” and “bar from approaching a court of law” were used as tools to effectively curb the uprisings of the Pakhtuns.

For instance, according to a study on ‘Fata’s model of governance’, the notion of collective responsibility dates back to the British rule when John Coke, officer in charge of the Kohat-Pass Afridis, laid down procedures in certain situations directing “to close the Pass at once, seize all the Afridis to be found in the Peshawar and Kohat districts, put the men in jail, sell their cattle, stop all pass allowances held by the Afridis and once the matter is settled, cause all losses to be made good, not from their confiscated allowances, but from the allowances made from the time they may commence.” Coke’s notion of ‘collective responsibility’ was followed by Edwardes who applied this idea with more accuracy and perfection when he was posted as Commissioner of Peshawar division during October 1853. With this mindset, the colonial masters during British Raj constantly utilised this imperial apparatus of ‘collective responsibility’ in order to sway the tribes.

Ceteris paribus, if one tries to look for a reason for the lack of unison in the set of laws applied to Fata and the rest of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, inquisition makes one wonder if the genetic makeup of the people of Fata is different from that of the human race hence providing the rationale for stripping them out of the aegis of ‘human’ rights. If this is not the case, then there supposedly might be a possibility of the people being strongly antagonistic to the state, earning themselves the inhumane FCR. However, the aforesaid is nullified by facts and figures.

The patriotic people of Fata have rendered countless sacrifices for their motherland. Despite their close historical, cultural and linguistic ties with the people of Afghanistan, the tribes of Fata wholeheartedly joined Pakistan in 1947. These people stood at the forefront of the war against Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra for Kashmir’s liberation when General Gracey refused to provide troops on Quaid-e-Azam’s request. It was then that the tribespeople from Fata formed a lashkar to defend Kashmir and captured Muzaffarabad and the area right up to Baramula. A large number of graves of the tribespeople in various parts of Kashmir bears testimony to their sense of patriotism.

Let us also not forget the more recent Soviet wars and the war on terror in which Fata remained Pakistan’s vanguard; suffering economic, social, human, psychological, cultural, internal displacement and an array of other losses.

The quantifiable economic loss of the war on terror to the country, according to the State Bank of Pakistan, is said to be around $118 billion, out of which Fata has suffered heavy scores. According to various media sources, 20-30 percent of the residents of Fata  have sold their properties and permanently migrated to urban centres. This was proven through a number of surveys that were conducted.

Yet, the state refuses to own the chauvinists. Article 247 of the constitution bars the people of Fata from approaching any court of law. The fact to ponder over is why the attitude of the rulers towards the people of this region has remained the same; both in times of oppression and in times of peaceful rule when the people of Fata had taken their allegiance towards the rulers. It is pertinent to note that this attitude at the time of the British rule would have most likely resulted in further resentment among the people and made them more resolute in seeking independence from the British. But being treated the same way by the country the people of Fata chose to be a part of would unequivocally give rise to feelings of marginalisation which can quickly turn into radicalisation.

Law experts also believe that the rise of Sufi Muhammad and the Taliban was a vacuum in the law and justice mechanism against the backdrop of the non-existence of a functional legal system. Sufi Muhammad attempted to fill that vacuum vide his proposed legal system.

A landmark proposal on the merger of Fata with KP, to everyone’s astonishment, is being opposed by some factions. These groups have suggested the vague notion of a referendum, which clearly does not tie up with Section 6 of Article 247 of the constitution. There are talks on the grapevine that the government is insistent on giving the region one percent of the funds from the divisible pool rather than the recommended three percent.

Whatever the motives behind the opposition are, the people of Fata deserve human rights and bringing them into the mainstream should be done without any delay.


The writer is a chartered accountant and a graduate of Oxford Brookes

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: Shahzad_91


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