The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Wednesday ordered the attorney general of Pakistan and additional chief secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to appear in person to assist the court as it ponders over its jurisdiction in the tribal areas.
Several amici curiae completed their arguments regarding the extension of the court’s jurisdiction to Fata to help settle the issue.
A specially constituted larger bench - comprising Chief Justice Mian Fasihul Mulk, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Malik Manzoor Hussain - heard arguments for around six hours to decide whether the court can entertain cases related to the tribal areas.
During the hearings, most lawyers agreed the court can request Parliament to amend Article 247 sub-section 7 of the Constitution to extend its jurisdiction to the tribal areas.
The article states that “neither the Supreme Court nor a high court shall exercise any jurisdiction under the Constitution in relation to a tribal area, unless Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) by law otherwise provides.”
Advocate Imtiaz Ali told the bench only legislators may decide to extend the court’s jurisdiction to the tribal areas as neither the Supreme Court nor any high court has the authority to entertain cases related to the employees of Fata.
The bench asked what kind of direction can be given to Parliament and under what provision of the law, to which Deputy Attorney General Manzoor Khalil said Article 1 of the Constitution defines the territory of the county and declares Fata a part of it. However, on the other hand, Article 247 sub-section 7 bars all courts from entertaining cases related to the tribal areas.
Khalil further said the court has jurisdiction to hear cases related to employees working on deputation and those of federal and provincial governments deployed in Fata, but the court does not have the authority to entertain cases of illegal detention and challenges to verdicts of the FATA Tribunal.
Additional Advocate General Waqar Ahmad Khan told the bench it has the authority to advise Parliament for necessary amendments as Article 10 assures a fair trial for each citizen.
The larger bench, after completion of arguments, asked for the government’s point of view on the matter and called the Fata additional chief secretary and attorney general of Pakistan before it delivers a judgment. It did not give a date of appearance to the officials.
The bench has been constituted to decide whether the court has the jurisdiction to entertain cases related to the tribal areas as more than 70 petitions related to Fata are pending before the high court.
Court orders to freeze budget officer’s assets
In a separate case, a day after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa filed a reference of Rs2.03 billion alleged corruption against 10 accused in the procurement of weapons and equipment scam, an accountability court ordered to freeze all assets of former budget officer of the police department Javed Khan.
Investigation Officer Inayat Khan had filed the reference in the accountability court in which the NAB chairman had suggested to freeze all of Javed’s assets. The accused has accounts in various banks, two houses in Hayatabad, plots in Regi Model Town and Islamabad Housing Authority and another house under his wife’s name.
Accountability court judge Ibrahim Khan issued the order on Wednesday to freeze all of Javed’s assets.
NAB had arrested Javed and contractor Arshad Majeed on February 21, 2013 for their involvement in the case. Arshad became an approver in the case and named all those involved in the scam.
On August 6, 2013, PHC released Javed on bail on the condition to furnish two surety bonds worth Rs20 million. Arshad has alleged in a statement recorded before Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Ilyas that he paid Rs420 million to Javed for assistance in preparation of tender documents, using influence to approve bids, arrange funds and make advance payments.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2014.
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