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THE federal government has notified Fata Interim Governance Regulation, 2018, repealing the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, declaring tribal agencies as tribal districts and changing the nomenclature of political agents to that of deputy commissioners as a prelude to the tribal regions’ merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Signed into law by President Mamnoon Hussain, the Fata regulation — aimed at providing “an interim system of administration of justice, maintenance of peace and good governance in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and repeal of the Frontier Crimes Regulation, 1901, and matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto till the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” — has “come into force at once”.

Parliament has already passed the 31st Constitutional Amendment to merge Fata with KP within two years. The regulation seeks to provide an interim arrangement in lieu of the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulation — often dubbed as the ‘black law’ — that with this regulation now stands repealed.

Erstwhile seven tribal agencies will now be called tribal districts and existing tehsils and six Frontier regions will be termed subdivisions

The erstwhile seven tribal agencies will now be called tribal districts and the existing tehsils and six Frontier regions will be termed subdivisions. Also, the nomenclature of the political agents, who administer the hitherto tribal region, has been changed as they will be called deputy commissioners. Likewise, the additional political agent will be termed additional deputy commissioner and the assistant political agent will be called assistant commissioner.

The interim regulation empowers the governor to confer the powers of district magistrate on the deputy commissioners as provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and the assistant commissioners the power of magistrate of first class “in any tribal district of tribal subdivision in the whole or any part thereof, where all or any of the provisions of this regulation are for the time being in force.”

Civil reference

The deputy commissioners will have the powers to refer all matters of civil disputes to a Council of Elders for settlement, for fact finding in accordance with the Rewaj, within 15 days of the dispute referral, which shall give its findings within 90 days.

The council shall be nominated by the deputy commissioner, whose names will be communicated to the parties in dispute for any objection to the names included in the council. The deputy commissioner shall appoint members of the council to adjudicate the matter after giving due consideration to the objections so raised.

Upon receiving findings of the council, the deputy commissioner shall decide the legal issues and pass a decree in accordance with the findings of a majority of the council members.

Criminal reference

In case of an offence, a case shall be registered and the suspect shall be produced before the judge i.e. an assistant commissioner designated by the governor to adjudicate criminal matters in each tribal district and vested with the requisite powers under the CrPC within 24 hours of suspect’s arrest.

The judge shall make an order in writing referring the matter to the Council of Elders, to be appointed within 10 days from the date of arrest, for fact finding. The council after holding necessary inquiry and hearing the parties and witnesses will submit its findings to the judge.

In civil matters, the judge shall communicate the names of the members of Council of Elders to the accused person and the complainant, and nominate the council after hearing from the two sides and disposing complaints.

The judge shall, after receiving the findings from the Council of Elders, pass an order in accordance with the findings of the majority of Council of Elders and applicable law.

Qaumi Jirga

In addition, the deputy commissioner may also take cognisance of any offence or civil dispute in exceptional circumstances, if so recommended by the Qaumi Jirga of a tribal district in the interest of justice and public peace.

Appeal

An appeal shall lie to the commissioner or additional commissioner, authorised so by the governor, within 30 days from the date of any decision given, decree or sentence passed, or order made by the deputy commissioner or the judge so appointed under the interim regulation. The appellate authority shall dispose of the appeal within 60 days.

An appeal against the order of the appellate authority can be filed before the Peshawar High Court within 30 days of such order.

Administered area

According to the interim regulation, the governor may from time to time declare by notification any area in Fata an administered area.

He may also appoint a date on which the provisions of the interim regulation shall cease to apply on the ‘Administered Area’ and to be replaced by 119 mainstream Pakistani laws.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2018