ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition by a couple of government allies, the Senate passed on Friday a bill, bringing the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (SC) and the Peshawar High Court (PHC).
Already approved by the National Assembly, the bill now needs to be endorsed by the president before shaping up as a law.
Senators belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), and FATA Senator Taj Afridi staged a token walkout to register their protest after law minister Chaudhry Mehmood Bashir Virk tabled the bill before the House for approval.
Lawmakers of all other parties supported the bill and termed it a great achievement of the parliament, saying it would mainstream tribal areas.
Before introducing in the House for approval, the Senate’s Committee of the Whole also discussed the bill and stressed the need for its early approval.
Those who opposed it said that extending superior courts’ jurisdiction was a clear violation of Article 247 of the Constitution that barred the state from establishing courts in tribal areas.
Terming the bill unconstitutional, PkMAP’s Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar said that it was surprising to see the government and opposition, which never worked together to get a bill passed, unanimously voted in favour of this bill.
He said that it was a black day for the people of FATA as the bill lacked the support of tribesmen.
JUI-F’s Attaur Rehman said that the decision was taken by a committee formed by the prime minister instead of the president in an unconstitutional manner.
According to him, tribesmen believed that the federal government and parliament should not take any decision about the people of FATA until all displaced tribesmen resettled peacefully. He said that the bill had eroded the parliament’s credibility.
Law Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Bashir Virk said bill had been drafted in consultation with all stakeholders, including political parties, tribesmen and civil society. He requested the Senate to approve the bill without any amendment as fresh amendments to the bill would delay the process of mainstreaming FATA.
Following the bill’s approval, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani congratulated the nation, people of FATA and the House, saying that the Senate would continue to work for the betterment of people. He dispelled the impression that bill had been passed on because of some ‘external pressure’.
Leader of the Opposition Senator Sherry Rehman said that Senate was independent and autonomous and it did not take commands of some institutions when it comes to legislation. She said the extension of the jurisdiction of courts was a step forward in implementing FATA reforms that had been suggested by the PPP. She said the government should assure the House that it would implement FATA reforms package in its entirety.