Frontier crimes regulation: Centuries-old law will take time to ‘reform’

Published: December 2, 2011

Analysts say no groundwork done before announcing amendments.

PESHAWAR: Nearly four months after the centuries-old Frontier Crimes Regulation was amended, analysts claim the reforms for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are far from being implemented.

The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) was first introduced by the British in the 1850s to rein in Pakhtun tribesmen in the northernmost parts of the subcontinent. A 100 years later, the FCR dubbed by many a “draconian” law remains controversial.

On the eve of August 14, for the first time in history, President Asif Ali Zardari signed amendments to the FCR. The law famously stripped tribal citizens of three basic rights – appeal, wakeel, daleel (the right to appeal their detention, the right to legal representation, and the right to present reasoned evidence.)

A senior lawyer from Fata, Abdul Karim Mehsud, says that implementation of the announced reforms is still a far cry. “Authorities have so far not shown any interest in implementing the reforms,” he said.

Mehsud feels that there was no groundwork done before announcing the amendments. “In such a situation, how can the Political Parties Order be extended to the tribal areas?” he said. He suggested that a separate Fata assembly or council should be established to resolve problems faced by the people in the region, he said.

However, Chief of Baacha Khan Trust Education Foundation (BKTEF) and analyst Khadim Hussain argues that reforms in Fata should be reviewed and introduced slowly and gradually.

In case the reforms are not implemented, tribesmen can also approach the court. “If this process is not halted, we will see positive results within five years,” he said.

Khadim said that changes to the FCR are about fundamental rights. “Now children, women, and elders will not be arrested under the clause of territorial responsibility and an appellate bench has also been formed,” he said.

There are some, however, who oppose the reforms. Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador and member of PTI, says the amendments are counterproductive.  “Tribesmen need schools, water, electricity and hospitals and this talk of reforms is only a pastime for people sitting in Islamabad and Peshawar.”

He said that the whole mechanism of the FCR revolves around the concept of territorial responsibility and disturbing this balance will further aggravate the situation. “If the military is withdrawn from Fata, normalcy will return to the region within three months,” he said.

Shah said the introduction of a new regulation Action in Aid of Civil Power and reforms to the FCR are dichotomous. “You made changes to the FCR and introduced another regulation 10 times harsher than the previous. What does that mean?”

However, Khadim Hussain considers introduction of Action in Aid of Civil Power as a hard bargain between the military and civilian government and says this regulation is more concerned with militancy and not directed towards tribesmen.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011.

 

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