FCR amended, political parties allowed in Tribal Areas

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As President Asif Ali Zardari signed the epoch-making amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) 2011 and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 on Friday, the much-needed administrative, judicial and political reforms in the tribal areas were set in motion.
The signing also realised an announcement made by the president on the eve of Independence Day two years ago and a similar announcement made by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in his first speech after taking oath in the National Assembly.
The two orders were signed by the president just an hour after a summary to that effect was received from the prime minister.
After these reforms, any accused would have the right to bail and it would be mandatory to produce them before the authorities concerned within 24 hours of arrest. Women, children below 16 and people aged above 65 will not be arrested or detained under the collective responsibility clause of the act. From now on, the whole tribe of the accused will not be arrested under the same clause. Only step-wise action will be taken; first immediate male members of accused’s family will be questioned, then their sub-tribe and then the rest of the tribe. The cases in future would be disposed of within a fixed timeframe with certain checks placed on arbitrary power of arrest under the notorious Section 40A of the FCR. The appeals would be made to the Appellate Authority comprising the commissioner and a dedicated additional commissioner (Judicial), who would be working in liaison with the governor.
The reforms envisage formation of a FATA tribunal headed by a chairman and two other members: one civil servant of BPS-20 or above, and one person qualified to be appointed judge of a high court. The members of the body are required to be well-conversant with local traditions. The tribunal will exercise power of revision against orders/judgements of the appellate authority. It will have powers at par with a high court under Article 199 of the constitution.
A new clause in the act would provide grounds for action against false prosecution in civil and criminal matters and under it, the defendant would be entitled to an adequate compensation. No person would be deprived of their property without adequate compensation as per prevailing market value. For the first time, the funds at the disposal of the political agent could be audited by the auditor general.
Section 58A of the act would require regular jail inspections by FATA tribunal, appellate authority and political agent. The rules would be framed for regulating the Agency Welfare Fund.
The reforms would allow political parties to operate freely in the tribal areas and the century-old FCR will now be tamed to make it responsive to human rights. These reforms are aimed at countering the impact of militancy in tribal areas. Under the draconian FCR law, there was no provision for appeals or engaging lawyers or reliance on reasoning against the orders of the executive.
Speaking on the occasion, President Asif Ali Zardari said his head was bowed in gratitude before God for having fulfilled yet another promise made to the people of FATA. He congratulated the tribesmen for harmonising reforms with their tribal customs and traditions. He said the legal and political reforms would rid the tribal people of a century of bondage and usher them into mainstream national life without undermining local customs and traditions.
The president announced that a hospital would be built in FATA but said the demand of the tribal people of making FATA a province would only be fulfilled when the entire country supported it.
“We don’t believe in divisions… there has to be a national consensus like we had for Gilgit-Baltistan … the creation of a new province of South Punjab also needs a national consensus,” the president said, suggesting that the division of Punjab needed national support and just political statements were not enough to create new provinces.
Also speaking on the occasion, the prime minister said reforms in FATA were yet another crowning achievement of his government to bring the people of the tribal areas into the mainstream.



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