ISLAMABAD - The government is all set to table the FATA Rewaj Bill 2017 — a proposed regulation to streamline the legal system in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by replacing the centuries-old FCR — in the upcoming session of the National Assembly. The government despite having two-thirds majority may, however, face stiff resistance from opposition parties to sail the proposed law through the lower house of Parliament, as some lawmakers including those from FATA feared that the law, if passed in the current shape, would land the tribal people in another trouble in the shape of an all-powerful Jirga being the dispensing and adjudicating body.

Background interviews with FATA lawmakers, leaders of various political parties and other stakeholders revealed that the proposed bill has many shortcoming and inadequacies and the same needed to be corrected before its formal approval from the Parliament.

A vast majority of FATA people, civil society organisations and other bodies working for the rights of men and women in tribal areas want to further spruce up the proposed bill so that the rights of the common man could be protected.

They feared that under the proposed Rewaj Act, a Jirga would be given legal status with vast powers vested in Maliks and members of Jirga — a leverage of exploitation in their hands.

Though an aggrieved person could challenge the decision of the Jirga in a high court or the Supreme Court, the vast powers vested in the Jirga would leave the common man at its mercy, some critics of the bill believe.

Sources in the Parliament believe that the proposed bill, which according to the Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, has been finalised in consultation with all stakeholders and is in line with the wishes of the people of tribal areas, would unlikely make its way in the upcoming session of the National Assembly.

A few days back, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had directed Zahid Hamid to finalise the Rewaj Bill so that the same could be passed from Parliament in the upcoming session.

On the other hand, FATA parliamentarians have given an ultimatum to the government to implement the FATA Reforms Package by May 20 and carry out necessary legislation in this connection from the Parliament.

They have warned that in the case of failure, the people of FATA would march on the federal capital and stage a sit-in until their demands were met.

The FATA lawmakers are of the view that they would not just accept the passage of proposed Rewaj Bill and wanted the implementation of the whole reforms package in totality. They wanted an immediate merger of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and their inclusion in the provincial legislature before the next general elections.

The federal law minister sounded optimistic about the proposed bill saying the Rewaj Bill would bind the FATA people with their customs (rewaj) while at the same time their basic rights would be protected as they could move a high court or the Supreme Court if they felt an uneasiness with the decision of the Jirga.

He said that a proper judicial system will be established wherein the role of tribal Jirga has been duly legalised.

“The black provisions of the FCR have been proposed to be deleted and all fundamental rights would fully be provided to the people,” he said.

The minister said that the salient features of proposed law were the flexibility for its gradual implementation of the package with gradual development on ground matching the legal reforms.

He said that another important recommendation in the proposed bill has been the allocation of 3 percent from the federal divisible pool on an annual basis for 10 years in addition to existing PSDP allocation of Rs.21 billion for FATA. “It will provide extra fiscal space for implementing the reforms package on the ground and there will be no financial constraints.”

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 08-May-2017 here.