PESHAWAR: The Takra Qabailee Khwendi, a civil society organisation of Fata women, has rejected the proposed Riwaj Act for the tribal areas and demanded the immediate merger of the region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The demand was made during a news conference held at the Peshawar Press Club on Monday with the representatives of the Takra Qabailee Khwendi, including Naheed Afridi, Ayesha Mohmand, Zuhra Saeed, Saman and Noor Jehan, in attendance.

The speakers said the people wanted to get rid of the colonial era black laws, including FCR, but ironically, the federal government was trying to impose another such law i.e. Riwaj Act on them.

They said they would strongly oppose Fata reforms unless the local women were given representation in the reforms committee and their demands were met in clear words.

“To keep the tribal women away from reforms committee is meant to keep the FCR intact as there is no right for them (women) in the draconian law,” a woman said, adding that tribal women would not remain silent and would run a campaign in this regard.

Other speakers said the jurisdictions of the superior courts should be extended to the tribal regions and that all the rights enjoyed by other citizens of the country should to be given to the people of Fata, too, to remove a sense of deprivation among them.

They said under the reforms, no change had been brought to Articles 246 and 247 of the Constitution regarding Fata and so, the powers of the country’s president and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor be devolved to the elected representatives (proposed in the reforms) from tribal areas in the KP assembly, provincial government and local body system.

The Fata women also said since their region was the most deprived region, there should be an increase in its National Finance Commission (NFC) Award with gender-segregated allocation.

They also demanded a comprehensive compensation package for the damages caused to the people’s assets by militancy and military operation in tribal areas to help them rehabilitate themselves well.

Criticising the federal government’s indifferent attitude with women, Ms Naheed said neglecting women in the reforms process was meant to keep them deprived of basic rights.

She said the Fata reforms process was not all-inclusive as the women were neither included in the members’ list nor were they formally consulted.

Another woman activist, Zuhra Mohmand, expressed reservation about the Riwaj Act and regretted that the Frontier Crimes Regulation would be replaced with the Riwaj Act.

“Under the Riwaj Act, the jirga system will be retained, while a council of elders appointed by the court will decide the criminal and civil nature cases in light of Riwaj. That is unacceptable to us,” she said.

The woman activist said women believed Riwaj in itself was a kind of gender discrimination and that it had always proved to be anti-women since the patriarchal oppression was based on it.

“Women have been excluded from the decision-making bodies and the jirga has patriarchal structure,” he said.

Ms Zuhra said the five years time for the mainstreaming of Fata was an illusion as there was no guarantee for the implementation of the plan.

“The commitments might ne unfulfilled with the change of the government,” he said.

Other tribal women demanded that they be made part of any forum for further action on the Fata reform process and.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2017