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April 14, 2018

Senate extends SC, PHC powers to Fata

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April 14, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Friday approved a bill seeking extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court (PHC) to Fata. Two key allies of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N); namely Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) opposed the legislation. However, interestingly, the Fata senators appeared happy and hailed the legislation. The law: The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the High Court, Extension of Jurisdiction to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Bill, 2018 will come into force at once. All other parties present in the House welcomed the development and advocated early reforms for the tribal people for their mainstreaming, including abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). However, while senators from diverse political parties expressed their views on the legislation, several of them tended to draw political mileage. Law Minister Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk first presented the report of the Committee of the Whole on the bill, which met before the session and held in-depth deliberations amid protest by the JUI-F and PkMAP legislators. Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Abdul Qadir Baloch gave briefing regarding Fata reforms and the bill.

After the House accorded approval to the report, the minister moved for consideration of the bill at once and the Senate passed the piece of legislation in the absence of the JUI-F and PkMAP senators, who walked out of the House.

Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani greeted the House on the bill and allowed leaders of parliamentary parties and other senators to speak on the bill.

The PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said the bill was in line with the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had twice visited the tribal areas and vowed to protect their rights.

“It is a good first step in that direction. During his visit to Fata, the Quaid was accorded resounding welcome while Nehru had to face stone-pelting. There is a need to take forward the process of reforms. There is disturbance right now. There is a need to talk to Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), engage them, as were engaged the Tehreek-e-Labbaik walas…they are also Pakistanis,” he said.

The veteran senator continued that the FCR must be abolished and the issues of missing persons and displaced persons must be looked into.

While congratulating all, Leader of Opposition Sherry Rehman made it clear that their cooperation with regards to the bill was linked to bringing a comprehensive joint bill on Fata, as the present legislation was not enough.

Taking exception to the tirade by younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman that the two major parties had agreed on this bill after receiving signals from somewhere, she said that it was a dangerous trend that if someone did not like a bill, he would allege this was being done because of some signals.

“It means, you want FCR to stay, there should be no reforms in Fata. We are here not because of being relative to someone. The Parliament knows how to fend for itself. We shall not allow anyone to undermine the Parliament this way. The legislature needs no signals from anywhere,” she asserted.

She said injustice was meted out to people of tribal areas for the last 70 years and now when a first positive step was taken, no one should try to impede the way. She noted that there would be more pressure on her to give more proposals for amendments with reference to Article 247, NFC and IDPs issue, as those in camps consisted of 60 percent children -- a lost generation.

Maulana Attaur Rehman retorted the Judgement Day would also be held on Friday, when some lawmakers hailed the legislation, coinciding with Friday (Juma). “The Parliament has done great injustice to people of Fata today. This is on someone’s signal, when the government and opposition jointly bring any bill,” he went on to allege.

The PPP Senator Abdul Rehman Malik also welcomed the legislation and emphasised the Parliament should not give its right to anyone else and added that there could be more observation from the Supreme Court like the one on extending jurisdiction of the apex court and high court to Fata.

Fata independent group leader in the Senate Aurangzeb and Sajjad Hussain Turi called for giving due share in the NFC to Fata and other rights.

The PML-F Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah said the bill was historic one towards granting fundamental rights to people of tribal areas. He praised the Senate for enacting legislation and greeted political parties for their long-drawn struggle in this connection.

The PkMAP Senator Usman Khan Kakar during the committee meeting warned that if the Senate passed the bill, it would be a black day for the people of Fata, whose consent was not sought in this context. He said it was quite surprising how the government and the opposition, which never agreed on issues, had agreed to pass this bill.

Abdul Qadir Baloch said the FCR was a black law, which gave sweeping powers to a political agent, whose decisions could not be challenged anywhere and the entire village was punished for the crime of one person in Fata.

Others who spoke included Sassui Palijo, Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Sirajul Haq, Sitara Ayaz, Azam Swati, Anwarul Haq and Javed Abbasi.

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