PESHAWAR: The extension of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court (PHC) jurisdiction to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) would not only safeguard the fundamental rights of the tribal people as guaranteed by Constitution but also they will be able to challenge the decision under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in the superior courts.
Experts dealing with the cases relating to Fata under the FCR told The News that the extension of the superior courts would provide people of Fata proper administration of justice in accordance with the Constitution.
On Friday, the Senate of Pakistan also passed the much-awaited bill extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the PHC to Fata. The National Assembly has already passed the bill.
The bill explained that superior courts shall have, in relation to Fata, the same jurisdiction as it has in relation to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It was stated that the objects and reasons of the bill were to bring the people of Fata into the mainstream in accordance with their wishes and aspirations.
The bill said it was necessary that the jurisdiction of Supreme Court and PHC should be extended to Fata for safeguarding their rights and providing them proper administration of justice in accordance with the Constitution.
The government in the draft bill had first proposed extension of the jurisdiction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to the tribal areas, but this was changed to PHC on the demand of the Fata parliamentarians and members of the tribal intelligentsia as Islamabad was located far away from Fata.
The extension of Superior Courts to Fata is also a ray of hope for Dr Shakeel Afridi, who has been accused of spying for the American CIA to hunt down al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, and was convicted of having links with the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-i-Islam.
His review appeal has been pending before the Fata Tribunal since 2014. After notification on the extension of superior courts' jurisdiction to Fata, Shakil Afridi would also able to file his appeal in the Peshawar High Court as for the last several years no progress was made in his case at the Fata Tribunal. In his appeal against his conviction, Dr Shakeel Afridi had questioned his trial and claimed that right of defence was not given to him in the case, even though it is his fundamental right.
The PHC didn't have jurisdiction in the detention cases from Fata wherein citizens were picked up from the settled area by the political administration or law-enforcement agencies.
In many cases, the high court simply dismissed appeals against the decisions made under the FCR by political agents and assistant political agents on the question of jurisdiction. "We would now get justice from the Supreme Court and PHC. We have been deprived of our fundamental rights since the creation of Pakistan," Fata Lawyers Forum (FLF) President Rahim Shah told The News.
He said there was no justice system in Fata under the FCR as political agent at the same time played the role of a complainant, investigator and judge. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly had also passed a resolution demanding representation for people of Fata in the provincial assembly and extension of superior courts' jurisdiction to the tribal areas.
The resolution demanded deletion of clause (7) of Article 247 of the Constitution for being in violation of fundamental rights of tribespeople and called for extension of the jurisdiction of the higher courts to Fata.