ISLAMABAD: The eight senators belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have different views on the future of the tribal areas and the proposed reforms about the region.
This diversity of opinion emerged after International News talked to the Fata senators on the controversial issue.
Shah Jee Gul Afridi, an independent MNA from NA-45 (Tribal Area-X), is a staunch supporter of Fata reforms and believes that tribal people should be included in the mainstream society by merging Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, his brother Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi belongs to the group of senators who oppose changes in the administrative structure in the tribal areas on the grounds that it poses threats to tribal traditions and challenges the purity of tribal culture.
Senator Muhammad Saleh Shah says that he along with other likeminded senators is opposed to Fata reforms as it is against tribal traditions.
“We are opposed to the idea of Fata’s merger with KP. What can KP do for us? They cannot even protect their children and some officials want us to place our future in their hands,” Saleh Shah said.
He alleged that the Committee on Fata Reforms, headed by Sartaj Aziz, former adviser to the prime minister on foreign Affairs, had presented a “concocted” report that was contrary to the aspirations of the Fata residents.
He suggested that tribal elders should be taken into confidence before making any decision on the future of Fata and insisted that the current status of the tribal areas was better than any uncertain future.
The Senate is set to take up The Supreme Court and High Court [Extension of Jurisdiction to Federally Administered Tribal Areas] Bill 2017 on Feb 13. The government bill was passed by the National Assembly on Jan 12.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has decided to convert the whole house into a committee to discuss the bill as it is a serious matter.
Senator Sajjad Turi supports early passage of the bill on the grounds that it will lead to early merger of Fata with KP.
He said that the bill should have been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice as it was presented by the law ministry. It would pave way for early passage of the bill as compared to a lengthy discussion in the Senate committee of the whole house, he added.
Senator Hilalur Rehman has objections to the passage of the bill by the National Assembly and says that he will oppose the proposed law on technical grounds.
“While jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court and the Supreme Court has been extended to Fata, has the applicability of the Criminal Procedure Code been extended to the tribal areas? Are there regular laws in Fata?” Senator Rehman asked. “In this situation, what kind of cases will be forwarded to the PHC or apex court from the tribal areas?”
He said that at present appeals against decisions by local jirgas or political agents were filed at the offices of commissioners of Peshawar, Malakand and Bannu but the future of this appellate forum after the bill was passed was not clear.
Senator Rehman said that the bill was hurriedly approved by the National Assembly and all other measures suggested by the Fata Reforms Committee had been ignored.
On the other hand, Senator Malik Najamul Hassan said that reforms were required in Fata and the best option for the mainstreaming of tribal areas was to make it the fifth province of the country.
“KP itself is a mismanaged province. Look at Malakand. It is hanging between the past and becoming part of KP,” he said, adding that if everything had to be established in Fata, it could be done after the region was granted the status of a province.