The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) commissioner has reserved his decision on the review of an order given by the previous FCR commissioner in the case of Dr Shakil Afridi till March 15.
On December 18, the FATA Tribunal had remanded Dr Afridi’s case back to the FCR commissioner terming a previous decision taken by former commissioner Sahibzada Anis vague and self-contradictory. It also directed the commissioner to remove the ambiguity.
Dr Afridi, who was arrested in May 2011 for allegedly aiding the CIA track down al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, had approached the FATA Tribunal after a 33-year sentence he was awarded in a separate case was overturned and the case sent back to the political agent of Khyber Agency by former FCR commissioner Sahibzada Anis on August 29, 2013.
On Saturday, Dr Afridi’s lawyers Samiullah Afridi and Qamar Nadeem told media after the hearing that they had informed FCR Commissioner Captain (retd) Munir Azam of the irregularities in Anis’s decision which needed to be cleared.
According to Samiullah Afridi, the previous commissioner’s order did not clarify whether the political agent would hear Dr Afridi’s case afresh. The order also did not mention whether the jirga would be constituted with new members or whether the witnesses would record their statements in the presence of the accused or not, said Samiullah.
However, Iqbal Durrani, the counsel for Khyber Agency’s political administration, told Commissioner Azam that there was no ambiguity in the previous order and it clearly stated in writing how the political agent will hear the case.
Upon hearing arguments from both sides, Commissioner Azam reserved the decision till March 15 to remove ambiguities the FATA Tribunal and Dr Afridi’s lawyers pointed out.
Furthermore, Jamil Afridi, Dr Afridi’s brother, told media after the hearing that the doctor’s family met him on January 27, but his lawyers are not allowed to meet him. “I have submitted several applications to the home and tribal affairs department to allow him to meet his lawyers, but to no avail,” he said.
FATA Tribunal’s December 18 order issued by a three-member bench comprising Chairman Shah Wali Khan and members Akbar Khan and Pir Fida Muhammad reads, “The above discussion leads us to the conclusion that this case should go back to the FCR Commissioner with the direction to write a detailed and well-reasoned order as required by Section 53 of the FCR. And we order accordingly.”
“Perusal of the impugned order reveals that it is ambiguous and self-contradictory; the commissioner directs that political agent (PA) of Khyber Agency/sessions judge should try the case himself as per law and rewaj (custom) but it is not clear as to how the PA will try the case,” the order further states. The PA can either try the case as an agent under the rewaj in FCR or as a sessions judge under the Criminal Procedure Code.
The FATA Tribunal’s order explains that the offences Dr Afridi is charged with are included in the second schedule of the FCR, and so can exclusively be tried by the political agent under FCR through a council of elders.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2014.