Provincial status for Fata being considered

PESHAWAR: A proposal is under consideration in Islamabad to give the Federally Administered Tribal Areas the status of a separate province, a consultative seminar on tribal region was told here on Tuesday.

“A cell in the presidency is looking into the possibilities of giving Fata the status of a province along the pattern of Gilgit-Baltistan. The government may make a decision on it in the next three or four months,” Fata Lawyers Forum president Ijaz Mohmand told the seminar here on Tuesday.

The Centre for Governance and Public Accountability organised the seminar titled ‘Article 247 Constitutional Amendment Bill and Fata Governance Reforms.’

Lawyers, academicians and university students from different tribal agencies attended the event.

Ijaz Mohmand told participants that under the proposed plan, Fata would have a separate council which would oversee development schemes and other activities in the proposed province.

He also claimed all seven tribal agencies and six Frontier Regions would be part of the new province.

“Without making amendments to Article 247 in the Constitution, the provincial status of Fata is not acceptable to us,” he said, adding that all stakeholders including Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan were in favour of strengthening the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Lawyer claims decision on the matter due in a month

“The purpose of the proposed reforms plan in Fata is to make FCR stronger and to continue status quo in tribal region,” he said.

The lawyer said without making amendments to Article 247, any reform package would be a futile exercise.

He said FCR had watered down after promulgation of Action in aid of Civil Power Regulation, 2011 in Fata.

Ijaz Mohmand said the Peshawar High Court had recommended extension in the role of the superior courts to tribal areas, while the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly too passed a resolution on it.

Noreen Naseer, who teaches political science at the University of Peshawar, suggested drastic reforms in existing administrative and judicial system in tribal areas and said the time had come to streamline affairs in Fata.

She said a bill had been put up in the upper house of parliament to extend role of the Supreme Court to the tribal region.

“Unlike Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, Fata has been declared part of Pakistan in the Constitution despite that certain articles has not been extended to the tribal region,” she said.

Noreen Naseer said parliament could legislate for Fata and only the president could sign regulations for the region.

She said the Ministry of State and Frontier Regions had been specifically authorised to look after budgetary matters in Fata.

“Several reforms have been introduced in the system in Fata including extension of Political Parties Order, right of adult franchise and certain amendment in the FCR, but the process was very slow. She said that judicial powers should be transferred from political agent to judiciary,” she said.

She said the volume of trade of Pakistan with Afghanistan through Fata was around $2 billion but the people of the region did not receive any benefit from it.

Former MNA from Bajaur Agency Akhunzada Chattan and CGPA executive director Mohammad Anwar also spoke on the occasion.