Islamabad: President of Pakistan on Friday signed a bill, allowing political parties to operate freely for the first time in the tribal region of FATA, besides harsh federal laws were amended in a bid to reduce the grip of militancy from the tribal belt.
President Asif Ali Zardari signed the two orders including Amendments in the FCR (2011) and Extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 to the Tribal Areas.
“In the long run we must defeat the militant mindset to defend our country, our democracy, our institutions and our way of life,” Zardari said, describing the system of justice in the tribal belt as “obsolete”.
It is a headquarter for Taliban and other al-Qaeda-linked networks fighting against US troops in Afghanistan and behind a bombing campaign in Pakistan that has killed up to 4,500 people in four years.
Critics argue that the lack of reforms have alienated tribesmen and made it easier for militant networks to recruit young men to take up arms to fight the Pakistani government and to avenge a covert American drone war.
The Taliban bitterly oppose Islamabad’s alliance with the United States and American drone strikes, which leaked American diplomatic cables showed the government quietly approved.
Talking to the media explaining the salient features of the reforms package, Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that contrary to past practice an accused shall have right to bail and it will be mandatory to produce him before the concerned authority within 24 hours of arrest.
He said women, children below 16 and those aged above 65 shall not be arrested or detained under Collective Responsibility. He said amendments have been announced in the FCR after 110 years at it was first announced in 1901 and under the reformed FCR, the women and children would be exempted from territorial responsibility.
He said that henceforth the whole tribe will not be arrested under the Collective Responsibility clause. Step-wise action will be taken – first immediate male members of family followed by sub-tribe and then by other sections of the tribe, he said.
The Pakistani military is fighting against homegrown militants in much of the tribal belt, but has ignored US pressure to open a new front against Afghan and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists in the district of North Waziristan.
Babar said allowing political parties to operate freely meant that “a vacuum had been filled” and that parties would now liaise with tribal elders in order to carry out their activities in a peaceful manner, AFP reported.
Until now lawmakers representing the tribal belt were technically independents. Although some have been backed by political parties, the parties themselves were not allowed to operate on the ground.