ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved on Monday extension of the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

A meeting of the committee presided over by its chairman Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk considered ‘The Supreme Court and High Court (Extension of Jurisdiction to Federally Administrated Tribal Areas) Bill, 2017’.

Under the bill, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the PHC would be extended to Fata, under reforms in tribal areas.

After detailed deliberations, the committee recommended that the bill may be passed by the National Assembly with amendments that the expression “Islamabad Capital Territory” wherever occur will be substituted by the “Province of Peshawar” and the expression “Islamabad High Court” wherever occur will be substituted by the “Peshawar High Court Peshawar”.

Soon after the agenda item was presented at the meeting, Shahji Gul Afridi and Shahabuddin, members of the committee from Fata, presented the amendment and said that it would be cumbersome for citizens of Fata to travel to Islamabad to seek justice.

JUI-F opposes move, accuses military establishment of placing terrorists in tribal areas

They said that instead of the Islamabad High Court the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court should be extended to Fata, as travelling to Peshawar was easier compared to Islamabad.

Shahji Gul Afridi informed the committee that parliamentarians of Fata had ended their protest sit-in on Oct 9 after the prime minister assured them that jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court would be extended to Fata.

Ali Mohammad Khan of the PTI supported the amendments, while Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani of the JUI-F strongly opposed the move.

Maulana Sheerani said there was no need to extend the jurisdiction of any court to Fata as tribal people were proud of their own culture and traditions. “They know how to settle disputes and crimes as well as other issues in Fata,” he said.

The Maulana accused the military establishment of placing terrorists in Fata.

He even supported the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) currently applicable in Fata by saying that the brave and courageous tribes adhered to their traditions which were closer to Islam.

Maulana Sheerani said the people of Fata were not only righteous but also peaceful citizens of the country.

PTI’s Ali Mohammad Khan countered Maulana Sheerani, saying that he had obtained higher education in Islamic studies and said the FCR was not an Islamic law.

“I strongly protest at your statement against the army and say that no-one has the right to defame any national institution,” he said.

The legislators from Fata informed the meeting that an extensive exercise had been completed by the government and the people of Fata were eager to join the mainstream like other citizens of Pakistan.

Iqbal Qadri of the MQM-P suggested that if a bench was established in Fata, there would not be an issue of the Peshawar High Court or Islamabad High Court.

The committee approved the amendments to extend the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court to Fata.

The amendments will now be forwarded to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2017