FCR by another name: Interim regulations for tribal areas are temporary

Published: September 24, 2018
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Tribal areas. PHOTO: REUTERS

Tribal areas. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHAWAR: The promulgation of interim regulations to administer the tribal areas in the province are just a temporary measure to fill a vacuum.

This was explained by the Federal Ministry of Law and Justice as it submitted its comments to the Peshawar High Court (PHC).

The PHC has been hearing a petition filed by a lawyer Ali Azim Afridi, who had challenged the enforcement of the interim regulation in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) especially after the merger of the tribal areas into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) after passing a constitutional amendment at the end of May.

Afridi had contended that imposing the interim regulations in the erstwhile Fata areas awarded judicial powers to commissioners which was against the virtue of the separation of executive and the judiciary as enshrined in the Constitution. He had requested the court to declare the May 29 Gazette Notification of the Fata Interim Governance Regulation 2018, as illegal and contrary to the Constitution.

Submitting a reply to Afridi’s contention in the PHC, the Minister of Law and Justice stopped short of offering a clear response over the question of violating the Constitution.  The law ministry, though, argued that the regulations had been enacted for an interim period and that in the fullness of time, all laws and regulations governing other parts of Pakistan will be extended and enforced in the newly merged tribal districts.

The law ministry had submitted its response after the PHC, in its first hearing of Afridi’s petition, had directed the respondents to file their comments.

After abolishing the century-old colonial law, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), President Mamnoon Hussain had signed a new set of rules for the region — the Fata Interim Governance Regulation 2018 — which aims to govern the erstwhile Fata until its merger with K-P is complete.

In its comments to the court, the federal ministry of law and justice contended that after the merger of Fata with the K-P, and the repeal of FCR 1901, there was a power vacuum in the tribal areas.

To fill this vacuum, the interim Fata regulations were promulgated after a summary was moved by the Ministry of State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) to provide for a bridge for administration, governance, justice, and stability in the region.

Explaining the interim regulations, the law ministry said that the office of the political agent and the assistant political agent had been re-designed as the deputy and assistant deputy commissioner respectively.

Moreover, a judge has been appointed in every district for adjudication of criminal justice while a council of elders has been constituted to act as the jury on the pattern of a developed legal system.

The provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1989, regarding securing and provision of bonds have also been completely applied to Fata.

“All provisions involving joint responsibility have been omitted and power of review has been given,” the ministry stated in its comments.  “Right of appeal to high court has also been provided to the people,” it added.

To replace the FCR, as many as 119 laws, as enforced to the other parts of the country have already been applied to the erstwhile Fata areas. On entrusting judicial powers to commissioners and deputy commissioners, the law ministry contended “the system is an interim agreement to fill the vacuum of administration of maintenance of peace in FATA.

With the passage of time, all laws that govern the rest of the country and the same judicial system would be established in due course of time.” The ministry subsequently requested the PHC to dismiss the petition.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2018.

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