The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved a constitutional amendment bill to extend jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Court to tribal area to protect the fundamental rights. The bill seeks to delete clause 7 of Article 247 of the Constitution, which bars the superior courts from enforcing these rights in the tribal areas. The bill was necessitated because under Art. 1, the Federally Administered Areas (FATA) do constitute the territory of Pakistan and its people are entitled to the same protection as guaranteed to others in the country. Two years ago, the Provincial Assembly of KPK, through a unanimous resolution, had called for deleting clause 7 of Art. 247 of the Constitution.

The tribal areas occupy a very anomalous position, it is the President and not the Parliament who has jurisdiction to enforce a decrees in the areas, despite the fact that Parliament is sovereign over the entire areas. Parliament’s jurisdiction, to make any law is specifically excluded under Art. 247(3). The superior courts too have been debarred from having any jurisdiction in matters pertaining to the tribal areas. This inherent discrepancy violates the fundamental rights and also is contrasting to principles of law making. After independence the tribal people were allowed to function under their own customs and traditions with no interference from the government and no efforts were made to alter the tribal system. The FCR, a law made by the British remained in force for 110 years, till President Zardari enforced The Frontier Crime (Amendment) regulation 2011, but this amendment exists on paper only, because of our week intentions.

In this century, despite having a strategic location, Fata remains a stateless entity, and normal state institutions like police, judiciary, democratically representatives, local government and municipal institutions etc. do not exist. Who is responsible if terrorists have made inroads in this area? Revamping and reforming the criminal justice system is already on the agenda of the National Action Plan, and its most auspicious beginning can be made by whole-heartedly and through a unanimous vote to allowing the tribal people all fundamental rights, and also extending the jurisdiction of the superior courts to the tribal areas.

ZAFAR AZIZ CHAUDHRY,

Lahore, February 22.