Protesting FCR Islamabad
The state of Pakistan (land of the pure) was founded on August 14th, 1947 after separation from India following independence from Britain. Although this was designed to be a new beginning for those hailed as Pakistanis, not so for the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) predominantly Pashtun in origin. Tribal people continue to suffer oppression as second class citizens under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) in what Muhammad Maqbool Khan Wazir describes as an “imperial black law” first introduced by foreigners.
Wazir, a researcher and security analyst, informs us that FATA is made up of of 7 Agencies and 6 “frontier regions”, (known as the Excluded areas) and states the region has no network of state institutions in the modern sense. He writes,
“the legal and adminstrative system in FATA is the same which was designed in the 19th century by British colonialists for their special interests. FATA today is formally a part of Pakistan but more closely resembles a colony whose population lives under laws and administrative arrangements that set it apart from the rest of the state. Almost six decades after Pakistan’s independence, tribal Pashtuns remain subject to the application of this colonial law, some of whose clauses are cruel to the point of being inhumane”
Former president Asif Ali came up with amendments to this legislation however there are ongoing issues over implementation and locals feel the changes don’t go far enough. There were hopes that the Nawaz Sharif government would abolish this draconian law but many feel FCR reform has been put on the backburner leading to mounting frustration and anger from FATA residents. Lawyer Saroop Ijaz describes FATA as “an island of exceptionalism, where the State of Pakistan has never earnestly tried to establish its writ and hence extend rights.”
Now FATA Lawyers Forum (FLF) supported by members of political parties are part of a new initiative to abolish the out of date and punitive law with the announcement of the “Go FCR Go” campaign.
FATA Lawyers Forum are challenging FCR, an unjust law
As Ijaz Khan Mohmand, president of FLF told me, Britain inflicted FCR laws on FATA in 1901 and tribesmen do not have any decision making powers. He described FATA as “an area of around 2,700 per kilometer and about 10 million people, a buffer zone between two powers but the peoples who are living there are called Tribal people”. He criticized the capitalist economy of the west pointing out that “democracy was not perfect” and asked “why have they used us in the name of religion, nationalism and clash of civilization, which we have seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia wars and that war was not religious but the war of capital.”
FATA youth have recently taken to the streets armed with determination and a series of posters protesting against FCR article 247 at Azad Square, Islamabad. Article 247 is said to “violate many rights enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan and also international human rights convention and treaties signed by Pakistan” see link,
“Amending article 247 must for FATA governance reforms”
Abdul Rasheed Mohmand, commenting on social media, praised those campaigning as “heroes” describing them as “awesome”. He said, “you are the real tigers, FATA youth can change the traditional exploitation culture in the name of FCR.”
Earlier this week DAWN media reported that political party, Pakistan Tehreek -i- Insaf (PTI) led by chairmam Imran Khan had addressed supporters on FCR. PTI claimed that, “misuse of FCR, absence of social justice system and denial of constitutional rights in FATA areas were the major causes of the prevailing sense of depression among and backwardness of tribesmen.” Local FATA parliamentarian MNA Shahabuddin Khan came under fire from protesters for failing to live up to his promise to work towards the abolition of this despised legislation.
The Frontier Post and FCR FATA Reforms pick up on the slowness of action from central government stating,
“the Government Commission was asked by the Governor to make its final recommendations by March 2015. Stating that reforms are needed for longstanding peace and stability in FATA, ANP, JI, JUI-F, MQM, NP, PPP, PML, PML-N, PTI and QWP (political parties) emphasize that now is the time for government to move forward on the reforms agenda and provide a new democratic system for FATA”
They added that,
“the ten political parties expressed resolve to continue work with Senators and members of the National Assembly to develop a constitutional amendment bill for Article 247 to guarantee fundamental rights for FATA”
Taliban groups TTP JA and TTP both oppose FCR and fight for Islamic law
Insurgent groups want to see the back of FCR too. However, they also want to see the back of the entire constitution of Pakistan and consider that there is no alternative to change in the Tribal Areas and beyond other than the full introduction of Sharia law. Ehsanullah Ehsan, official spokesperson for Pakistan Tehreek -e-Taliban, Jamaat -ul-Ahrar (TTP JA) stated,
“whether it is FCR or the constitution of Pakistan; we consider all the man-made laws Haram (sinful, forbidden). Pakistani laws have been directly or indirectly made by the British colonialist Kuffar (non-Muslims) or their puppet rulers put in place by them in Pakistan. These laws are completely un-Islamic and meant to exploit and enslave the Muslims of Pakistan. We are fighting and we shall continue to fight until the whole un-Islamic democratic system is uprooted from Pakistan and Shariah of Allah SWT becomes dominant in this land”
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) social media spokesperson also gave his comment saying, “we are Muslims and we believe in Islamic law and our fight is against these laws that are non-Islamic and FCR is non-human law.”
“Go FCR Go” campaign could become a key political and religious issue as laws changed under the constitution of Pakistan and a democratic system for many symbolize continued western influence. This could become a battle of democratic law versus Islamic Sharia law as to what might replace FCR.
Critics of FCR allege inconsistency in areas of human rights legislation and discrimination both in civil and criminal matters, with Muhammad Wazir claiming that there is “little justification for a parallel legal system that was designed to serve colonial ends and remains outside the purview of Pakistan’s judiciary.” Among the many areas of concern within FCR raised by Wazir, two examples are given here. The first is regarding cases of detention in the Tribal Areas. He states,
“article-9 protects life and liberty but under FCR hundreds of people are arrested and detained every year without any charge or trial. For months and in some cases for years the detents stay in prison on the basis of the so called plea of collective tribal territorial responsibility (many can be punished for the actions of a few). In fact, liberty has no meaning in FATA except statelessness, lack of accountability and responsibility and the rule of ‘might is right'”
Waris Hussain (an adjunct professor specializing in international law) writing for Express Tribune in February 2014 before the launch of military operation Zarb -e-Asb in June of this year, highlighted one area of possible opposition to FCR abolition. He stated,
“the military may want to stymie this action, especially if it is considering military operations in FATA regions used by militants for sanctuary. As soldiers, not lawyers or prosecutors, it is understandable that the military would wish to avoid legal scrutiny of its potential future actions in FATA. Perhaps, it has learned a difficult lesson by being brought before the Supreme Court concerning missing persons in Balochistan and wishes to avoid any similar future controversies”
A second area of grave concern relates to females where the law appears strongly gender biased with no practical framework for helping the mothers, sisters, daughters of the Tribal Areas. As Muhammad Wazir points out “the FCR absolutely ignores crimes against women, (not even a single woman reported a case under the FCR so far), despite the fact that maximum crimes in FATA are related to women.”
These are only two examples from many issues covered under FCR.
“Go FCR Go” launches on social media
Opposition to FCR is not going to disappear. This is a time of growing unrest in FATA with many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) angry at being forced from their homes due to military operations against insurgents. They want multiple issues aired and to return to an improved FATA, not one with the same restrictions and injustice.
DAWN media has just highlighted the latest example where FCR is being used to put pressure on the people of FATA with the launch of another military offensive called Khyber -1 in the Bara area. The local political agent informed residents that airstrikes would soon begin and told a jirga (tribal assembly of elders) that,
“the elders of Bara shall fulfil their responsibilities under the Collective Territorial Responsibilities clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation and try to prevail upon militant groups and their sympathisers to refrain from putting up resistance during the Khyber-1 operation and instead voluntarily surrender”
This puts enormous pressure on Tribal people to convince militants to co-operate with the government when they may have no influence on them whatsoever and in doing so may be put at personal risk.
A seminar took place back in June before the latest upheaval to investigate the problems encountered by Tribal people. It was entitled ‘FCR: Need of Reformation, challenges and Way Forward’, and was organized by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). This initiative showed that the majority of participants, a mixed group of people representing civil society in FATA, demanded nothing less than the complete abolition of a law that has been maintained against their interests for far too long.
“FATA under FCR: An imperial black law”
The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR): A socio political assessment
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.