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PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman on Thursday triggered a controversy by forming a body to advise the provincial government on issues arising out of the tribal region’s merger with the province as lawyers claim the governor doesn’t have the powers to interfere in the affairs of merged districts.

A notification issued by the Governor’s Secretariat said the competent authority with an immediate effect had constituted an advisory board comprising seasoned elders with in-depth knowledge of governance in defunct tribal region, including chairman Umar Khan Afridi and members Rustam Shah Mohmand, Mir Liaq Shah and Sangi Marjan.

This is second such committee formed to resolve post-merger issues during past some months. Earlier, November last year, KP cabinet had also notified a ministerial committee. However, it was abolished in Dec even before it could have held its first meeting, amid reports of the provincial bureaucracy scoffing at the decision.

Lawyers to take Shah Farman to court over ‘interference’ in tribal districts’ affairs

The notification said the committee’s terms of reference included deliberating and suggesting a way forward and making recommendations within the framework of the government’s decision to ensure economic and political stability and address concerns and irritants of local community based on tribal traditions, norms and culture of defunct region.

“The advisory body will make recommendations to the government on issues arising out of the merger of the defunct region in to KP,” it said.

The notification said the board would address and make suitable recommendation to propose a comprehensive dispute resolution mechanism for resolving civil and criminal disputes in accordance with the local customs and traditions to make recommendation for the enforcement of decisions of the jury or jirga.

It said the board would create a law enforcement force exclusively for the erstwhile tribal area by organizing short and long term training for the existing levies and khasadars and to operate within the broad parameters of the new government schemes by instituting such mechanism that is compatible with the norms, values and traditions of the area.

The notification said the board would also ensure that the new system or administration does not result in long delays of court cases and those decisions were made expeditiously within a timeframe and the centerpiece of the new system would be to retain the fundamental principles that guided decision-making in the defunct tribal areas.

“The board will also ensure to respect the aspirations of the people of the region by not imposing a system that will cause more hardships, more agony and adversely affect the security environment.”

Under ToRs, the board will take steps to hold local body elections in the tribal region as soon as possible and ensure that these institutions contribute to the formulation and execution of development schemes.

It was not immediately clear as to what prompted Mr Farman to form the body as the governor has no role in the affairs of the defunct region following the deletion of Article 247 from the Constitution and the tribal region’s merger with the province.

Ijaz Mohmand, who heads the forum of lawyers hailing from the defunct Fata, termed the governor’s notification unconstitutional and said Mr Farman was interfering in the affairs of merged districts.

He said the KP governor’s status was the same as that of other provinces, as his powers extending to the defunct Fata were clipped.

“It is illegal for a governor to interfere in the issues of districts and therefore, we will challenge the formation of advisory body by him in the court of law,” he said.

Mr Mohmand said currently, both the governor and chief minister were not on the same page regarding the merger issues with the former ‘representing status quo’ in that respect.

He said the merger issue was heading in wrong direction, while lawmakers from the region were not in picture about all these decisions.

Ajmal Wazir, adviser to the chief minister on merged districts, wasn’t available to comment on the matter despite repeated attempts.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2019