Article 247 of the Constitution of Pakistan not only specifically places a bar on exercising any jurisdiction by the Superior Courts in Fata but also provides that no Act of Parliament applies to it. The federal government of Pakistan directly governed this region by the Governor KPK through a special set of laws called as the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). In 1901, the British framed and introduced the FCR to effectively control this region. It takes away three basic legal rights of the inhabitants—‘Appeal, Wakeel and Daleel’ (the right to appeal, the right to legal representation and right to present reasoned evidence).  The Late Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice A R Cornelius, in a judgment, said that the FCR is ‘obnoxious to all recognized modern principle governing the dispensation of justice.’ In fact, the FCR was specifically devised by the British Raj to protect the interests in the region. Regrettably, we continued adhering to this more- than-a-century old law even after the independence.

Pakistan has not made any serious endeavor to upgrade the legal status of the area since independence. We have been dealing with it on the basis of ad-hocism. Due to these reasons, now Fata has become somewhat a ‘state within a state.’ It has become a focal point of all the illegal activities, a major center for smuggling, a store house for the narcotics and illegal arms, an ultimate destination of the stolen vehicles from all of Pakistan and a den of outlaws from all over the country reside there as there is no government that rules the area. After the US invasion in Afghanistan, it has also become a safe haven, hide-out and breeding ground for the militant terrorist from all over the world. In fact, it is an epicenter of all the terrorist activities being carried out in the country at present. We are reaping the harvest of what we have sown in Fata for the last 65 years.

The promises made by the US government to set up a Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) as counter-terrorism and regional economic integration strategy has not been fulfilled leaving a gaping hole. Ironically, instead of the ROZ’s, the ‘gifts’ for the people of Fata have been the UAV’s, alias drones. Ironically, at present, we are employing and applying only two instruments to deal with Fata- the FCR and the drones. In fact, no counter-terrorism strategy in the country would be successful without the active and sincere support of the loyal and patriotic tribesmen of Fata.

Therefore the government should upgrade the legal status of Fata by introducing some legal reforms and eliminating the FCR. Besides this, some extensive measures for the purpose of educational and socio-economic development of people of the region are required to help stabilize this area.

MOHSIN RAZA MALIK,

Lahore, October 28.