FATA committee seeks wide-ranging reforms

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Favours repealing FCR with new ‘Tribal Areas Rewaj Act’ and Jirga system; SC, HC shall stand extended to FATA

Islamabad—Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Thursday unveiled recommendations aimed at mainstreaming FATA to end poverty and years of neglect.
Aziz, in his capacity as Chairperson of the FATA Reforms Committee told reporters at a press conference here at the Foreign Office that the region faced Pakistan’s highest rate of endemic poverty and lowest development indicators, with its people facing huge deficit of human rights.
He said FATA Reforms figured prominently under the National Action Plan formulated for undertaking counter measures against terrorism, as it was infested with armed national and international militant groups, who challenged the writ of the state.
The report has already been presented to Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and discussed in a meeting of National Action Plan, where it was agreed to make its finding public to elicit further debate and develop national consensus.
Aziz said the forthcoming sessions of the Senate and National Assembly would also hold a debate and suggestions from all stakeholders would be incorporated to make it more effective.
The Committee pointed that the consultation process brought forward four options of transformation of FATA.
These include maintaining of the status-quo with minor changes; or granting special status to FATA like Gilgit-Baltistan; creating a separate province for FATA, or integrating FATA into KPK province.
Integrating FATA into KP made more sense keeping in view the close horizontal linkages of agencies and FRs with the adjacent KP districts. These trade and economic links were also reinforced by social and cultural consanguinity with FATA tribes, the Committee recommendations said.
The FATA Reforms Committee also favoured repealing the existing Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) with the new “Tribal Areas Rewaj Act” and the Jirga system.
Minister for SAFRON Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch responding to a question said that during the consultations all stakeholders expressed unanimity on the Rewaj Act, terming it part of their age-old tradition. He however dispelled the impression that it would be in conflict with the existing laws of the country.
He said the provisions relating to collective responsibility in the FCR will be omitted in the new Act, thereby making an individual responsible for his own acts.
Under this act the judge will not be the political agent but will be a judicial officer. While the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Court shall stand extended to FATA.
The Jirga system will remain prevalent in criminal and civil disputes, while it was also proposed to codify the “Rewaj” in each agency. The Committee also proposed to carry out land settlement in FATA so that this land asset can be capitalized to release locked up funds. Following an over eight month long “extensive consultative process” the committee held meetings with parliamentarians from Federally Administered Tribal Areas, tribal elders, religious leaders, leaders of major political parties in FATA, the business community, civil society representatives and youth organizations.

The six-member FATA Reforms Committee was headed by Chairperson, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz while its members included Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, Governor KPK, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch Minister for SAFRON, Zahid Hamid, Minister for Law & Justice, Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Nasser Khan Janjua National Security Adviser and Muhammad Shehzad Arbab, Secretary SAFRON. The total population in FATA is around five million and comprises the Agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan, besides the Frontier Regions of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki, Tank and D.I.Khan.
A statement issued after the press conference said the FATA Reforms only be meaningful if the Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) would return home and be assisted to reconstruct their property damaged during the operations, besides other infrastructure. The committee proposed investment in a ten year FATA Development Programme covering all the sectors.
The committee proposed holding of local bodies elections in 2017; up to 30 per cent of the FATA 10 Year evelopment Plan will be executed through the local councils. To ensure availability of adequate resources for development of FATA on a long term basis, 3 per cent share from the divisible pool has been proposed which would in addition to the existing annual development allocation of Rs 21 billion a year. Sartaj Aziz said new posts of 20,000 Levies would be created for policing, while better border management with Afghanistan shall be enforced with the addition of additional Frontier Corp and improved surveillance. Aziz said it was also proposed to end the collection of toll taxes the “rahdari” and “permit system” in the agencies that resulted in increasing costs and corruption.
He said a Governor’s Advisory Council that includes all the parliamentarians would be established to advise the Governor in development and administrative matters, including the progress of the integration process.
Referring to the Implementation Mechanism, Sartaj Aziz said the objective was to achieve sustained political engagement, and experts would be provided at the technical level for reform implementation. —APP