ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly unanimously passed a bill on Friday extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court (PHC) to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Law Minister Chaudhry Mehmood Bashir Virk moved ‘The Supreme Court and High Court (Extension of Jurisdiction to the Fata) Bill 2017’. Except for the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the government and opposition parties supported the legislation. The bill was taken as supplementary agenda of the day, as it was not included in the order of the day. Before moving a list of amendments rejected by the House, JUI-F MNA Naeema Kishwar made a failed attempt to disrupt proceedings by pointing out lack of quorum though the required strength was present in the House. She also staged a two-minute token walkout against the legislation.
Kishwar called for substituting words “Peshawar High Court” with the “Islamabad High Court”. She protested that the bill was not mentioned in the order of the day, as it was included through supplementary agenda.
The government assured the House of bringing other reforms too, including the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as per recommendations of the Fata Reforms Committee. The bill for merger of Fata with the KP still hangs in the balance due to opposition from the JUI-F and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
Speaking in the House, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said the bill for the Fata-KP merger would be introduced at an appropriate time. Baloch said credit went to the government for abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and extension of superior courts’ jurisdiction to the tribal areas. “Today all the political parties are united on mainstreaming of tribal areas. The tribal areas will also be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at an appropriate time as per the recommendations of Fata Reforms Committee,” he said.
Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah termed it a step towards mainstreaming of the tribal areas. “Another step towards the merger of Fata with the KP should also be made,” he said. Shah said the people of tribal areas had given numerous sacrifices and they should be rewarded by merging Fata with the KP province. Shah G. Gul Afridi from Fata said the step towards Fata reforms would bring a positive change. Ali Muhammad Khan of PTI said the step towards Fata reforms had won the hearts of the area people.
Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sahibzda Tariqullah also lauded the government for passing the bill. “It should have been passed much earlier,” he said. The Jamaat-e-Islami asked the government to pass the bill by Jan 31 or it would stage a sit-in in front of the Parliament House.
The federal cabinet had approved the legislation in September last paving way for extension of Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court’s jurisdictions to Fata. However, the bill’s passage was delayed on the demand of Fata parliamentarians, who felt that instead of IHC, the Peshawar High Court’s jurisdiction should be extended to their area.