Friday, August 12, 2011

Political Parties Order 2002 extended to FATA

 President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari on Friday signed two orders that set into motion the far-reaching administrative, judicial and political reforms in the tribal areas.

The two orders signed by President Asif Ali Zardari were Amendments in the FCR (2011) and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 to the FATA.

The political parties represented at the ceremony included ANP, PML-N, JI, PPP-S, PML-Q, MQM-S, NP, PkMAP and JUI-F.

He said the legal and political reforms would rid the tribal people from a century of bondage and usher them into mainstream of national life while respecting local customs and traditions.

Salient features of the reforms package:
 Contrary to current practice an accused shall have right to bail and it will be mandatory to produce him before the concerned authority within 24 hours of his arrest.

 Women, young children below 16 and old aged above 65 shall not be arrested or detained under Collective Responsibility.

Amendments have been made in the FCR after 110 years at it was first enforced in 1901 and under the reformed FCR, the women and children would be exempted from territorial responsibility.

Now the whole tribe will not be arrested under the Collective Responsibility clause. Step-wise action will be taken - first immediate male members of family followed by sub-tribe and then by other sections of the tribe.

Cases will now be disposed of in a fixed timeframe and checks placed on arbitrary power of arrest under the notorious Section 40A of the FCR.

Appeals will lie before Appellate Authority comprising of Commissioner and a dedicated Additional Commissioner (Judicial) to be notified by the Governor.

The reforms envisage setting of a Fata Tribunal headed by Chairman and two other members out of whom one shall be a person who has been civil servant of not less than BPS 20 having experience of Tribal Administration and other member shall be a person qualified to be appointed as Judge of High Court well conversant with Rewaj.

The Fata Tribunal shall exercise power of revision against orders/judgments of Appellate Authority and shall have powers similar to High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution.

A new section has been added providing for action for false prosecution in civil and criminal matters. Under it the defendant will be entitled to adequate compensation in criminal matters and compensatory costs in civil matters.

No one shall be deprived of his property without adequate compensation as per prevailing market value in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 procedure in settled areas.

For the first time the funds at the disposal of the Political Agent shall be audited by Auditor General.

Section 58A has been added to make provision for jail inspections by Fata Tribunal, Appellate Authority and Political Agent. Rules will be framed for regulating the Agency Welfare Fund.

Farhatullah Babar said that the reforms hammered out after consultation with all stakeholders was approved in principle on August 12, 2009 in a meeting in the Presidency that was also attended by the prime minister. The meeting had left it to the President to announce it any time he deemed fit.

The signing today has made the process of reforms irreversible, he said. Any attempt to undo it will require dismantling of consensus among the stake holders and another Order to be signed by the President, Farhatullah Babar said.

Henceforth the political parties, subject to appropriate regulations to be framed, will be freely allowed to operate in the tribal areas and present their socio economic programmes on the one hand and the century old Frontier Crimes Regulation will be molded  to make it responsive to the human rights of the people.

The permission to political parties to sell their programmes in tribal areas will counter the pernicious one sided campaign of militants to impose their ideological agenda on the people rejecting the state, the Constitution, democracy and indeed our very way of life. 

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