Saturday, August 31, 2013

FATA province the only way

The lawyers from tribal areas have demanded amendment in the Frontier Crimes Regulation (The law in itself is a crime against humanity) be amended. These lawyers have also demanded the extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to FATA.
However, the requirements to bring the people of tribal areas at par with the rest of the nation are much greater; Nothing less than FATA becoming a province with its own elected assembly, political administration and other trappings will bring peace and prosperity to the area and enforce a will among the tribes to fight terrorism.
The absence of a province of their own, and the presence of the cruel FCR law has held in abeyance the progress of the tribes. The shameful law contains sections which allow the political administration to demolish the house of a tribesman in his absence without informing him of his crime or giving him a chance to defend himself, legally. To give another example: A political agent (PA), who also has the powers of a session judge and deputy commissioner, can send a tribesman to the gallows on the basis of a report prepared by his staff and signed by the tribal elders whose positions and means of living depend on the goodwill of that very PA. Again, the condemned individual has no right to defend himself as he would in any court anywhere in the civilized world: The accused tribesman does not have the right to appeal; to be represented by a lawyer, or to submit evidence in the PA's court. As such, for all practical purposes, the PA is the chief executive, the head investigator, leading prosecutor and the top judge in the political agency of his posting: there is no escape for a tribesman from PA's clutches.
As to the demand for extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to FATA; without the structure of lower judiciary, the arrangement will not be effective.
Right now the people of FATA, who are as much citizens of Pakistan as anybody else and as much loyal to the country if not more, are being treated as pariah. For the corrupt bureaucracy in Islamabad, the secretariat for the tribal areas in Peshawar and the as much corrupt local politicians, FATA is the most milk-yielding cow: they would not want to change the arrangement. If only the funds embezzled during the last fifteen years are recovered from the corrupt officials and politicians, these would be enough to bring a major improvement in the infrastructure of the area. The tribal area with a population of 12 million, as it stands today, has no major modern institutions. There is not even one university in FATA. However, the woes of tribes are not just because of the barbaric legal system or the lack of infrastructure, it is also the absence of a modern and democratic political system impeding their freedom from the yoke of backwardness.
The tribes need not just modern courts, police, hospitals and schools; they also require full fledged political institutions: they need a local government system topped by a representative provincial government.
It is not understandable that such an area as Gilgit-Baltistan, which is not recognised either nationally or internationally as part of Pakistan, can be allowed to have an elected assembly, a chief minister and all the administrative paraphernalia of a province, but the same cannot be given to FATA which is a recognised part of the country.
The tribal areas have great potential to develop quickly educationally, culturally, economically and politically if made a province. It has seven agencies as natural geographical units and each agency if declared a district with further subdivisions, which already exists but are held together by a draconian instead of democratic system, can be joined into a province. Just establishing the necessary offices in the headquarters of these districts for the new democratic setup will generate enough development, jobs and hopes to put the tribal people in a positive frame of mind.
The excitement of having a province of their own with a representative provincial assembly which can pass laws for the area and having their own civil administration will invigorate the tribal people to make big strides towards progress on all fronts.
Right now, whatever resistance there is in Fata against the introduction of modern laws and institutions is because of the sense that these are imposed from the outside. With their elected representative making the very laws, promoting similar uplift projects and setting new institutions, such biases will vanish. There will be a healthy competition for projects among the elected representatives from different districts which will further help the tribes snap out of desperation.
Nawaz Sharif had raised voice for making Fata province before elections; now he is in power and is in a position to fulfil his vows. The question is will he?

(Courtesy Frontier post )

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