ISLAMABAD - Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani yesterday dubbed the articles 246 and 247 of the constitution regarding the tribal areas as draconian.

The article in question provides that no Act of Parliament applies to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas without the President’s consent.

Under the article, only the President is authorised to amend laws and promulgate ordinances for the tribal areas. The elected representatives thus have no say in the administration of FATA.

It repeals the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s courts over FATA which also limits the application of fundamental rights.

Article 246 and Article 247 define the tribal areas of Pakistan and they are divided into 4 types of tribal areas – FATA, Frontier Regions, Provincially Administered Tribal Areas and Federally Administered Northern Areas.

Although they are part of Pakistan, according to Article 1 of the 1973 constitution that defines Pakistan territories, yet are governed very differently and actually ruled as British Viceroy did by force through inhuman and degrading laws called FCRs the “Frontier Crimes Regulation” that are implemented via Article 247 .

British regime governed Pashtuns and Balochistan this way since 1893 after the Durand Line formation. These laws allow for inhuman and degrading laws called FCR 40, that allows for collective punishment of whole villages and towns.

Addressing the Senate’s Committee of the Whole, Mian Raza Rabbani said the articles 246 and 247 were against the democratic norms and civil liberties. “I would say the article 247 is draconian. It negates basic rights and denies democracy for the people,” he said.

Rabbani said the sub-section 3 of the article 247 stops establishment of parliament or assembly in the tribal areas.

The Committee of the Whole was constituted to discuss FATA reforms and to receive proposals from experts and discussion of members.

Pakistan Muslim League leader Mushahid Hussain Syed said after Palestine, the tribal belt was the lone region where houses can be demolished to punish someone.

He said the time has come to bring a change in the lives of the tribal people and introduce them to a free atmosphere.

“There is a need to end the status quo. They should be treated as equal citizens of Pakistan,” he stressed.

Legal expert Ajmal Mian said as a first step high courts and supreme court should be introduced in the tribal belt. “A FATA council can be established. Then we can move slowly to resolve other issues,” he added.

He proposed FATA could be made a separate province or merged into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa according to the will of the people.

“All the decisions must be taken after consulting the people. They are equal citizens and must not feel alienated,” he added.

Mian said the election process in the tribal areas must be made free and fair so that the common man can enjoy the fruits of democracy. “The political agent must not be the absolute ruler,” he said.

He regretted the government did not implement the recommendation of the whole committee to improve the lifestyle of the tribal people.

Senator Rehman Malik said there were plenty of laws in Pakistan to ensure rights but lack of implementation was the main issue.

He said without an administrative unit, the government cannot enforce laws in any area.

Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said the government wanted to give basic rights to the FATA people. “We believe they should be the masters of their destiny. Why should we force anything on them,” he said.

Baloch said the government sees the tribal people as patriots who could contribute positively for the progress and prosperity of the country. “The law and order situation is improving. The government wants to bring reforms and is ready to accept proposals from all quarters,” he maintained.

Former secretary for SAFRON Habibullah Khan said the people of tribal areas do not want to merge with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “They feel their traditions and culture may not be acceptable under a new administration,” he added.

He said branches of national institutions should be opened in FATA which does not require any legislation.

Khan proposed immediate local governments’ elections in FATA to devolve power at the grass roots level.

All the participants agreed that reforms in FATA may be brought through Parliament, reflecting aspirations of the tribal people. There was a consensus that the government must act quickly to bring FATA in the mainstream and allow equal rights to the tribal people.

They believed the FATA people would accept only those reforms which were in line with their tradition and culture.

The meeting - with Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani in the chair - was attended by leader of the house Senator Raja Mohammed Zafarul Haq and other members of the Senate.