Jirga to judiciary

Setting up of judicial system in Fata will take around a year as the government has to appoint judges

Jirga to judiciary

The Peshawar High Court has given a complete plan to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for the extension of the judicial system after Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) has been merged with KP, replacing the colonial law of the Frontier Crimes Regulation of 1901.

President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain signed the Fata Interim Governance Regulation, 2018 on May 28. The tribal people of Pakistan have got rid of the old draconian law, FCR, as the Interim Governance Regulation, 2018 comes into effect, a set of rules that apply to Fata until it merges with KP within a timeframe of two years.

The main purpose of the FCR was to protect the interests of the British rulers and counter the opposition of Pashtuns to their rule. After independence, KP and Balochistan got rid of the FCR gradually, but Fata remained its only hostage.

Muhammad Iqbal Mohmand, a senior lawyer from Fata and former deputy attorney general of Pakistan, tells TNS that during this period of transition tribesmen will face some challenges while contesting their cases in the regular judicial system.

However, he claimed that a majority of decisions taken under FCR were unjust and in violation of Article 10-A (right to fair trial). There was no fair trial as the Assistant Political Agent and Political Agent were giving decisions on the recommendations of the official jirga that they themselves had nominated.

After the merger and extension of jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) and Supreme Court, tribesmen have got the right to challenge local decisions in superior courts, a right they were deprived of under the controversial law of FCR.

Another senior Fata lawyer, Wali Khan Afridi, appearing in both criminal and civil cases related to FCR, says the cases were only decided on the recommendations of the official jirga, which preferred the consent of the political administration. Besides that, the accused persons had no right to a defence lawyer.

However, he explains, "the worst aspect of the FCR was its collective responsibility clause, which was imposed on anyone in the tribal areas for a crime committed by his or her relative or anyone from the same tribe."

In terms of what is to come, "The PHC has already forwarded the proposed plan to the government about the requirement of 52 judges and ministerial staff. The PHC has given an estimated cost of Rs13870.024 million for infrastructure, including establishment of judicial complexes in the tribal agencies," says Muhammad Zubair, media protocol officer to the PHC Chief Justice.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Judicial Academy has already done its homework on the plan at the direction of PHC Chief Justice, Yahya Afridi.

According the document, Rs9528 million is required for the establishment of seven judicial complexes at tehsil level in all the tribal agencies and Rs4341 million is needed for building seven judicial complexes at the district level in the agencies.

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As per the document forwarded to the provincial government, the PHC has asked for the appointment of seven District and Sessions Judges (BPS-21) for each tribal agency -- Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Orakzai.

Similarly, the high court requires appointment of 14 Additional District and Sessions Judges (BPS-20) in the agencies along with 24 civil judges. It also requires ministerial staff with the judges, including superintendents, assistants, and others, which comes to about 301 personnel for the District and Sessions judges and 492 for civil judges.

Muhammad Zubair, media protocol officer to the PHC Chief Justice, says this complete setting up of the judicial system in Fata would take about 10 to 14 months.

Jirga to judiciary