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No Access to Justice; Prisoners face pathetic conditions in Fata

Conditions of Prisoners in Fata are worsening. They are provided with substandard foods, no clean drinking water and no easy access to toilets and washrooms.

‘Imprisonment of innocent people for no crime and without any access to justice’ is one of the most violent side of the Fortier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in Fata for the human rights.

The Tribal Post has accessed and arranged meetings with persons imprisoned in the lockups (jails) of the Political Administration and their family members.

On 22 August 2015, in lower Kurram Agency two rival families of Khaista Khan and Sheraz Gul opened cross firings on each others. In the result, Aziz Gul son of Khaistan Khan was killed while Sheraz Gul got injured.  Nawaz Zareef son of Sheraz Gul was arrested, and imprisoned by Political Administration. He is in jail under FCR for the last two years.

“Two years on, I am in jail and my case is not preceded by Political Agent,” said Nawaz Zareef who was speaking behind the bars to The Tribal Post.

“This incident occurred because of prior pity children quarrel, now I regret for it. Now, I also want a judicial trial but so far, I am not presented before Political Agent or any Fata tribu nal and nor I will be given the right, I believe,” added Nawaz Zareef, “This is injustice and cruelty.”

Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ people are deprived of basic human rights enjoyed by other citizens of Pakistan under the constitution of 1973. Fata is still governed under British colonial-era law known as the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), which was first implemented in 1901 with the aim to subjugate frontier independent tribes.

FCR was implemented in 1901 with the aim to subjugate frontier independent tribes.

Political Administration’s cruel attitude is not limited to public, but their own employees also became its victims.  In 23 June (Last Ramadan), two huge blasts occurred in Parachinar, Kurram Agency. During blast hours, a political ‘Muharrer’, Ahmed Ali, was arrested, and now he is in jail of Political Administration without any crime.

“The blast occurred at Turi gate, and I was arrested from Sabzi Mandi, about a kilometre distance,” imprisoned Political Muharrer, Ahmed Ali, told the Tribal Post.

“It is strange that Political Muharrer on duty at Turi Gate is not arrested, and I am behind bars, adding so far my case is not preceded. I request for giving me a chance of defence, and inquiry,” added Ahmed Ali.

“A government official is facing such hurdle in access to justice then what about common people,” Ahmed Ali added.

Ahmad Ali’s wife faces mental trauma, whose husband is in jail for no crime.

Ahmed Ali’s wife Nazeera bibi told The Tribal Post, “We are facing financial problems as my husband salary was stopped by them. I have no male family member that helps us in bringing household items from Bazaar. I have two sons and two daughters who now often remained absent from School because of none to take care of them. I am facing mental Trauma.”

Prisoners under the FCR Law have been facing terrible living conditions inside jails. The administration is more careless about their health and other basic rights as most case against them have no official records. Such prisoners were never presented before any tribunal or any court in Fata.

On condition of anonymity, another Political Muharrer told Tribal Post the situation of prisoner under FCR, “People are imprisoned for not only for an unending time, but their living conditions are worsening. They are provided with substandard foods, no clean drinking water and no easy access to toilets and washrooms. They (Political Administration) are not handling and treating prisoners like human beings.”

The prisoners are provided with substandard foods, no clean drinking water and no easy access to toilets and washrooms.

The FCR is misused widely in Fata. Without any prior permission of Political Administration’s officials, the Khasadar and Levies forces personnel do raids on houses, insult women, take bribes, and even resort to use of torture. They arrest people for unlimited time and never disclose their crimes.

Sajjad-ur-Rehman Registrar of FATA Tribunal, Peshawar (PHOTO: Anwar Shah Orakzai, TRIBAL POST)

However, officials at Fata Tribunal claim that they provide justice to prisoners using the same FCR Laws. Fata Tribunal’s Registrar Sajjad-ur-Rehman told Tribal Post that no innocent person is kept in jail for long time.

He said that family members of prisoners could appeal in the Fata Tribunal. “The Tribunal investigates such cases and if anyone is found innocent, it orders the Political Administration to release him,” said Sajjad.

Ex. Parliamentarian and a prominent politician Muneer Khan Orakzai, told The Tribal Post, that long before, he informed the Political Administration of keeping innocent people in jails. “There are such prisoners who have not committed any crime.  These people are without trials in jail for years.  I also have informed the human rights organizations about issues of prisoners,” he added.

Muneer Khan Orakzai and other local leaders are trying to raise the issue of ‘FCR prisners’ with the Pakistan Army authorities to demand justice for them. Tribal people are also hopeful with the changes took place in Fata after military operations and discussion over Fata widely on national and international level.

“Now we are hopeful, maybe Pakistan Army after being launched in Fata, help us. Such prisoners will be provided with justice. Now the situation is changed, and it will be not easy for Political Administration to do injustice with people,” Muneer Orakazia added.

Nevertheless, Political Muharrer, Muhammad Riaz, denied arresting innocent people and violating human rights under the FCR Laws. “No innocent person is arrested. Those arrested are involved in illegal activities. There is no prisoner who is below 18 years or above 65 years or lunatic etc,” he said adding that prisoner’s cases undergo trials of Political Administration,” Riaz told the Tribal Post.

Collecting prisoners’ data is difficult because Political Administration is not allowing to do so in Fata.

While answering a question regarding the arrest of Political Muharrer Ahmed Ali, Muhammad Riaz said that he was arrested because he failed to note ‘details of a suspicious vehicle passing by the check post under his duty.

As an effort for the tribal people to have access to justice, Fata Tribunal was introduced in 2011 by making amendments in section 55A of the FCR and formally constituted in May 2015. The Tribunal is consisted of a chairman and two members, appointed by the governor of KP.

According to the ‘Fata Tribunal’ law of FCR, the Political Administration is bound to finish any pending case of prisoners within three months otherwise it will be considered as violation of the law and the Administration will be responsible.

The Registrar Sajjad said that Fata Tribunal has currently 336 registered cases. He said that the tribal people should be aware about the legal process how they could get access to justice under the Tribunal.

Answering the question that why large number prisoners are still deprived of access to Fata Tribunal, Sajjad said, “It is due to lack of awareness. Tribunal’s Chairman visits different Agencies time by time. Sometimes innocent prisoners are released on the spot while the Chairman visit jails in Fata.”

The Registrar told Tribal Post that anyone could submit a case at any time in Fata Tribunal.

HRCP President Shahidullah. (PHOTO: Anwar Shah, TRIBAL POST)

On the other hand, human rights organizations and activists also make their efforts for justice for the ‘FCR-prisoners’. Human Rights Committee Pakistan (HRCP) is one of such organizations. HRCP’s president, Shahidullah told the Tribal Post that they are working for such prisoners. “We are trying to provide them with justice, but so far done nothing practically. Collecting such prisoners’ data is difficult because Political Administration is not allowing and cooperating,” Shahidullah said.

‘Political Agent Jirga’ is subordinate and unable to deliver justice. Aggrieved party can appeal to Fata Tribunal, but the case either got delay or if decided, then ignored by Political Agent. There is a drastic need of reforms to replace FCR with a new Judicial System so that provide local with easy and speedy justice in Fata.

Since Pakistan came into being, successive governments initiated various Fata-Reforms but in vain. Present PML (N) government formed a Fata reforms Committee that has proposed replacement of FCR with Tribal Areas Rewaj Act-2016.

In Fata, the Tribal Areas Rewaj Act-2016 implementation is yet to be seen in practice. Tribes are still governed under FCR. Even FCR’s implementation is gone more fragile and those tribes people imprisoned in jails are without access to justice; “the so called Political Agent-Jirga”.

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