The legal battle

November 29, 2015

In a rare move, the people of Fata have filed a petition seeking implementation of the audit law

The legal battle

For the first time the people of Fata have started a legal battle against corruption and misuse of funds in the tribal agencies by the political administration.

A week ago, the People’s Accountability Forum Fata, (PAFF) a non-governmental organisation working for the rights of the people, has challenged in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) the ‘misuse’ of funds of the tribal agencies and non-implementation of the audit law in Fata.

Chairman PAFF, Ghani Gul Mahsud, and coordinator Malik Inayatullah Afridi had filed the petition through their lawyers, Abdul Karim Mahsud and Barrister Zafar Shaheen, seeking implementation of the audit of funds in tribal agencies and restraining the political administration from misuse and misappropriation of the fund.

The PPP-led federal government, through Frontier Crimes Regulations (Amended in 2011), had extended the audit law regarding audit of funds to the Fata in 2011.

The federal government inserted section 58 in the FCR through amendments under a title, Maintenance of Register.

Section 58 states that, "Registers shall be kept and maintained, in forms to be approved by the Governor, of all cases dealt with by the Political Agent or District Coordination Officer, as the case may be, the Appellate Authority and the Fata Tribunal under this regulation. The record of all sums received as fines under this regulation and disbursed by the Political Agent or the District Coordinating Officer, as the case may be, shall be maintained and accounted for, which shall be audited annually. The auditing authority, audit mechanism and such other modalities to be determined in the rules to be framed under section 62."

The forum claimed in the petition that in 2011 the President of Pakistan, through amendments to the Section 27 of the Frontier Crimes Regulation, directed that all fines in the tribal agencies should be included in the Agency Welfare Fund.

Read also: "Fata should be given an elected council with full mandate," says Hamidullah Jan Afridi

It was stated in the petition that the audit law had been extended to the Fata in 2011, but the political agents didn’t even want to talk about the audit of the funds.

Talking to TNS, Chairman PAFF, Ghani Gul Mahsud, says that billions of rupees were being collected in tribal areas under the head of fines from tribal people, but all the funds were being collected and issued only on paper and not through a cheque, thus, billions of rupees were misappropriated.

"We, the people of Fata, are being deprived of our own funds," he says, adding that the forum tried to ask the political authorities to implement the audit law and carried out annual audit of the funds in the tribal agencies, but to no avail.

"All the funds meant for the welfare of the people of Fata were at the disposal of political agents. Nobody from the tribal areas or even from the government side can ask them how they were spending these huge funds," he argues.

Ghani Gul Mahsud claims that if the misuse of funds meant for the tribal agencies was stopped Fata would not need allocation of funds for its development projects in the budget.

On the other hand, the President of Fata Lawyers’ Forum (FLF), Rahim Shah Afridi, announced full support to the legal battle of the PAFF against misuse and audit of funds in the tribal agencies.

Talking to TNS regarding the issue of misuse of funds and non-implementation of the audit law in tribal agencies, the FLF president says that Fata lawyers will also be made party in the case to provide legal assistance to the PAFF in the case.

Secondly, he adds, the FLF would take its legal battle even to the Supreme Court for implementation of the audit law extended to Fata.

The president of FLF further says that the incidence of corruption is high in Fata. He alleged that non-implementation of the law about annual audit of the funds and issuance of funds on white paper proved that from President of Pakistan and Governor to political agents, assistant political agents, tehsildars and other high-ups in Fata secretariat are getting their share in the funds.

About the reasons of misuse of funds, the FLF president alleged that political agent is being posted after paying Rs500 million. He said there is no check on the political agent and assistant political agents after they pay a huge amount for the posting.

The FLF Vice President, Taj Mahal Afridi, laments that successful governments and Fata parliamentarians had closed their eyes to the massive corruption in the tribal areas. He stated that the people of Fata were being deprived of their rights under the British-era FCR.

Another lawyer, Abdul Karim Mahsud, who is also from Fata, says that through the petition the people of Fata wanted to know where the billions of rupees earmarked for them went and how the money was spent.

The legal battle