Dr Ashraf Ali addressing a seminar on FATA reforms held in Iqra University Islamabad on Monday.

ISLAMABAD: The extension of higher judiciary to FATA was a right step forward towards ending the decades long sense of frustration and deprivation developed by the people of the neglected tribal region. This would not only ensure their right to easy justice but also bolster the confidence of the people of FATA in the reform process and improve predictability, an essential component of implementation.

This was the crux of a seminar held here at Iqra University, Islamabad to discuss the current momentum and way forward on the FATA reforms process. The seminar titled, “ Extension of Higher judiciary to FATA: What next? discussed at length the progress on the FATA reforms process following the passage of the bill by the National Assembly on January 12.

The seminar was attended by FATA parliamentarians, academia, legal and political experts, analysts, academia and students beside a large number of members of the civil society.

Speaking on the occasion senator Hidayatullah Khan said if the people of fata are sons of the soil under the constitution of 1973, then whey should they be treated differently? There should be a uniform law thought-out the country. He said FATA suffered a lot. The people got humiliated at the TDP camps but never ever the people of the area have raised the stands of revolt against the mainstream Pakistani laws. The people of fata should not be tested anymore, he warned. We should be given a fair deal, he maintained.

The senator from Bajaur said that the people of fata want to move forward along with the developed world. We, should, therefore, be treated under the laws of the mainland, Mr. Hidayatullah Khan concluded.

Mr Khan said without making amendment to Article 247(3) to make Acts of Parliament applicable in FATA, the extension of higher judiciary to FATA would be of no good use.

Mr Kamran Arif, a legal expert and former Vice Chairman Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said reforms in fata was not an issue only for the people of fata but it is a national issue. He said extension of the superior courts to fata was a welcome move towards mainstreaming the region. However, this, by itself, would not be enough to mainstream the region.

The government must allocate enough funds to develop rule of law institutions in FATA. So that fata can either become a new constitutional unit or join an existing unit of the federation in due course of time.

Extension of the jurisdiction of superior courts should be accompanied by setting up subordinate courts and a total repeal of article 247 and 246, Mr. Arif argued.

Students participating in a seminar on FATA reforms held in Iqra University Islamabad on Monday.

Dr Shehryar Khan said it was an irony that the people of FATA are denied their fundamental rights in 21st century democratic world. He said to earn local ownership for the system we need to include people in the political process. To give them a sense of ownership, they should be given their due share in the decision making process. To that end, Dr Shehryar Khan argued the people of FATA should be give representation in the provincial assembly of FATA in the upcoming general elections to be held later this year.

Dr. Ashraf Ali said though the extension of the higher judiciary to fata was the first step towards mainstreaming fata, however, this has opened up the door for more reforms that we can see down the road. This would give the people of the region a right to apeeal, wakeel and daleel which they have deprived of since long. He further said  the people of fata suffered a lot during the decade long war on terror. Some 70000 people were killed with over 6000 only in uniform. The country’s material damages have gone over 120 billion dollars. During this period the country saw one of the huge mass displacements of its political history, however this displacement proved to be a blessing in disguise for the neglected region of the country. The people saw a different world when they came out of then black hole. Though slowly and gradually but fata was on the track to progress and prosperity, he concluded.

Taking the discussion further a tribal elder from Kurram Agency,  Malik Ibrar Hussain said the passage of the bill regarding the extension of superior judiciary to FATA from the national assembly is the first landmark achievement. The bill, when becomes the Act of parliament will prove a great development towards addressing the sense of frustrations and deprivations the people of the neglected region have developed over the years. On economic front, he said, a 10 years multi billion socio-economic development plans would help generate economic opportunities in the area to gainfully engage the people and especially the young lot to save them from being spoiled by the spoilers.

He called upon the government to speed up work on the reforms and give the people of the area a chance to live in peace.