Govt slows down Fata reforms plan

ISLAMABAD: The government appears to have slowed down its march towards implementation of the Fata reforms package as approved by the federal cabinet on March 3 last as no step has since been taken which signals first step towards the change. One reason of the delay could be sudden rise in the voices of dissent against the reforms pattern especially the decision of the tribal areas merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in five years.

Barrister Zafarullah Khan PM’s Aadviser on Law and Parliamentary Affairs had told The News that moving onward was matter of days and not months clearly hinting that the legislation would start without further waste of time.

However, the cabinet’s approval has already entered in third week and there is no sign of presidential ordinance with regard to the extension of superior court’s jurisdiction to the tribal belt nor was the issues of brining ‘Riwaj act’ to replace the notorious FCR has so far been unveiled.

The government intended in the first step to extend the jurisdiction of Supreme Court and High Court to the Fata areas through a presidential ordinance but before that it is necessary to abolish the infamous FCR by replacing the same with the so-called ‘Riwaj’ or customs act. While the ruling parties of KP and the tribal parliamentarians in unison have been demanding immediate merger of Fata with the province, JUI-F together with few old tribal elders are raising their concerns especially with the decision of merging tribal areas with the KP as against the mandate of Sartaj committee. The JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman even went to the extent that the government had deceived his party on the matter.

The PPP demand of discussion in Parliament on Riwaj Act and Local Bodies law in Fata in the Senate on Friday is seen as the reflection of all opposition parties particularly those ruling in the KP and these too may raise their voice in PPP’s support in days to come.

The PPP demanded that the proposed Riwaj Act and the regulation to set up Local Bodies in the tribal areas in the recently announced Reforms Package be placed before the Parliament for discussion before the president signed any regulation in this regard. The party however did not made it clear whether it would accept or reject if the demand was not met and the presidential ordinance is promulgated without being discussed in the parliament.

Speaking on an issue of public importance in the Senate Senator Farhatullah Babar who is also spokesperson for former president and PPPP President Asif Ali Zardari said that keeping the Riwaj Act and LB law secret from the public and the Parliament raised serious questions about the law replacing the notorious FCR in tribal areas as promised in the Reforms Package.

It will be a disastrous step backward if it turns out that the Riwaj Act was even more regressive and anti-human rights than the notorious FCR, he said.

He said the president must not sign these regulations merely on the advice of bureaucracy alone without it being discussed in the Parliament. Likewise the Parliament should be taken on board as to how the local bodies governments will be set up in tribal areas, the powers and responsibilities of these bodies and the mode of election and whether these will be held in all agencies simultaneously or in a staggered manner and how.

He also demanded to know how the government proposed to extend the jurisdiction of superior courts to Fata as promised in the Reforms Package and the time line for it.