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Drone attacks a war crime, says CJ

April 28, 2013

PESHAWAR, April 27: Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan on Saturday said the US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas were a war crime as they were being carried out in violation to the United Nations charter and Geneva Convention.

“If possible, the state should use force against drone strikes. It (drone strikes) is an act of aggression against a sovereign state,” he said during a convention of Fata Lawyers Forum on ‘Rule of Law in Fata’ here.

The chief justice said it was the responsibility of the United Nations to check aggression by a member state against another but unfortunately, the world body had become weak and had turned a blind eye to the killing of innocent people and destruction of property by the US drones in tribal areas.

He said under the 18th constitutional amendment, all powers of the president had been transferred to parliament except those related to Fata.

Justice Dost Mohammad asked what force was stopping the president and parliament from shifting his (president’s) powers regarding Fata under Article 247 of the Constitution.

“In none of the parliamentary democracies across the world, including the US, India and Bangladesh, one will find such an example that parliamentarians from Fata could legislate for the entire country except the areas where they are elected from,” he said.

The chief justice said the president was the head of the executive and the legislature for Fata and was also the final legal authority for those areas.

He said unfortunately, there was rampant corruption in tribal areas.

Justice Dost Mohammad said Fata had not a single university or professional college that clearly showed that the people at the helm of affairs had deliberately been trying to keep local residents backward.

He said it was unfortunate that 90 per cent of the communication networks in tribal areas were set up by the colonial rulers and following that no noteworthy development took place there.

He added that the porous Pak-Afghan border, which could not be defended by Nato and Pakistani forces, was defended for 60 years by tribesmen, who served as unpaid soldiers of the country.

The chief justice said due to a wrong decision taken by an individual, the entire tribal region was turned into a war zone, where public life and property were not safe.

He said Frontier Crimes Regulation of the colonial era was still the supreme law in Fata, which was a violation of the local residents’ fundamental rights.

Justice Dost Mohammad said peace could not be restored in Fata unless there was rule of law.

Supreme Court Bar Association President Mian Israrul Haq said the association would extend all-out support to tribal lawyers in their struggle for constitutional rights, especially provision of fundamental rights to the people.

Peshawar High Court Bar Association president Abdul Lateef Afridi said the people of the tribal areas had never been treated like the residents of the country’s other parts and therefore, the region was underdeveloped.

“Fundamental rights are given to all Pakistanis except tribal people and that is an injustice,” he said.

Fata Lawyers Forum president Ijaz Mohmand said his forum had begun legal struggle for the rights of the tribal people.

He said Fata had been kept backward and there had been no tangible development and progress there since the country’s independence.

The participants later unanimously called for extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to the tribal areas. They also demanded provision of fundamental rights to people of tribal areas.

Peshawar High Court Bar Associa-tion president Ishtiaq Ibrahim, Fata Lawyers Forum general secretary Taj Mahal Afridi, deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand and Peshawar District Bar Association president Maulana Shamsul Haq also spoke on the occasion, where lawyers were in attendance in large numbers. —Bureau Report