ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as a first step towards implementation of the long overdue reforms in the country’s restive tribal areas.
In the initial draft that had been prepared in the light of suggestions of a six-member special committee that had proposed merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) was to be extended to the tribal areas.
The cabinet which met under Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved that a bill seeking extension of the jurisdiction of the superior courts would soon be placed before parliament after which the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would be abolished. The cabinet also agreed that normal laws of the country would be enforced in Fata in a phased manner.
“This will be reinforced by a massive development effort which will be financed through allocation of additional resources from the divisible pool after concurrence of all stakeholders,” said an official announcement issued by the Prime Minister Office after the cabinet meeting.
Cabinet decides that normal laws of the country will be enforced in Fata in phases
The cabinet was informed that a National Implementation Committee under Prime Minister Abbasi had already been constituted which would oversee the political, legal, administrative and developmental mainstreaming of Fata.
The committee in its first meeting last week had decided to install a transitional mechanism and to create a position of chief operating officer for the period of transition.
Besides members of the committee who had initially drafted the Fata reforms earlier this year, the prime minister, chief of the army staff, KP chief minister and commander of 11 Corps had also been included in the newly-constituted National Implementation Committee.
The prime minister had already directed the minister for law and justice to fast-track legislative and administrative measures for the mainstreaming of Fata so that the people of Fata could have access to the fundamental rights on a par with the people in the rest of Pakistan. The committee had also approved the fast-track recruitment of police and redeployment of some of the Frontier Constabulary, after training, to perform police functions.
In March, the federal cabinet under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had approved a set of steps to be taken for the proposed merger of Fata with KP and a 10-year reform package to bring the tribal region on a par with other developing areas of the country. Over Rs110 billion development package, proposed by the Fata reforms committee, had also been approved for the seven agencies of the tribal region.
Later in May, the government convened a special session of the National Assembly for presentation of three bills, including a constitution amendment bill that had been drafted in the light of the recommendations of the Fata reforms committee.
Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, however, tabled the amendment bill required for declaring Fata a part of KP and the Tribal Areas Rewaj Bill, 2017, but he did not move the bill seeking extension of the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court and the Supreme Court to Fata without any explanation.
The Rewaj bill is being introduced “to provide for a system of administration of justice, maintenance of peace and good governance in Fata and protected or administered areas”, says its brief introduction.
However, the government had to face embarrassment in the parliament when two of its allies – Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam – forcefully opposed the move to merge Fata into KP.
Later, the reforms were hit a snag when the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was in China at that time, directed the government to hold back the legislation. Mr Sharif had reportedly issued the directive after receiving a telephone call from Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Ten per cent ‘ad hoc relief’ raise
Meanwhile, sources said that the federal cabinet had also approved a 10 per cent raise as “ad hoc relief” in the salaries of the National Assembly speaker and the deputy speaker, chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, ministers and the members of parliament.
In the federal budget, the government had announced a 10 per cent increase in the salaries of the employees as ad hoc relief. On demand of the members during the budget debate, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in his winding up speech had committed that they would also get this increase.
The federal government had approved a staggering increase of up to 146pc in the salary of members of parliament in November last year.
The salary of a member of the National Assembly and the Senate is Rs150,000 at present. The salary of the speaker and the Senate chairman is Rs205,000 whereas the salary of their deputies is Rs185,000.
The present salary of federal ministers is Rs200,000 and the salary of state ministers is Rs180,000.
Besides, the cabinet also accorded approval to the Finance Division for laying the annual report of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan for the year 2015-16 and that of the Competition Commission of Pakistan for the year 2013-14 in the parliament after publication in the Gazette of Pakistan.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s Annual Report for the year 2015-16 and State of Industry Report for 2016 was also presented before the cabinet.
The prime minister directed the ministry concerned for a comprehensive presentation to the cabinet on power generation, distribution and transmission, liabilities and recoveries and load management in the country.
The cabinet also approved signing of agreement between Pakistan and Tanzania on abolition of visa for diplomatic and official passport holders.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017