Senate panel takes up FATA human rights case | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Senate panel takes up FATA human rights case

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: In the first case of its kind taken up by parliament, a Senate panel is deliberating a case of alleged human rights violations by the political administration of Khyber Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The family of 18-year-old Maaz Khan has filed a petition at the newly established public petition cell of the Senate, claiming that the political administration of Khyber Agency subjected the teenager to severe torture and has been illegally holding him for almost five months.

The family said the political agent also refused to consider the request of Maaz’s school headmaster to release the boy on bail to take his exam. “The denial resulted in Maaz losing an academic year.”

The lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan are still governed by colonial-era laws called the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Human rights violations by the all-powerful political agents were a norm until the entire area fell into the hands of militants.

Read: Irregularities in FATA uplift projects anger Senate panel

Since the military launched its operation against militants, the writ of the state is gradually being restored, but cases of human rights abuses by the political administration are also being reported once again.

After receiving the aggrieved family’s petition and supporting documents, the senate secretariat referred the matter to the Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions, which summoned the political agent to hear his side of the story.

However, neither the political agent nor the assistant political agent showed up in the July 14 meeting. Instead, they sent in a written statement to the panel.

This prompted the committee chairman, Senator Hilalur Rehman, to serve summons to all the officials concerned to appear before the parliamentary panel in the next meeting.

The teenager’s elder brother Naveed Khan said in his petition that Maaz was arrested in March over a petty issue between boys of two tribes, adding that he was locked up and subjected to inhuman torture. “He was neither allowed protective bail nor produced before the tribal jirga to settle the dispute, which is his fundamental right under the FCR.”

Exhausting all other options, the elder brother filed a public petition in senate. The public petition cell examined the case and referred it to the standing committee, asking it to report back to the house within 20 days.

The panel received a written response from the political agent in the July 14 meeting. He said the scuffle had occurred on March 2 between some Afridi and Shinwari tribesmen in Landi Kotal Bazaar.

“When Khasaddar and Levies officials intervened to defuse the situation, the accused Maaz and his accomplice Dawood attacked the law enforcers.”

The political agent said Maaz was arrested with a knife in hand, adding that a criminal case was registered against both the boys for attacking and seriously injuring a Levies official. “Dawood, however, has yet to be arrested.”

The committee has rejected the written response, saying that it is a breach of the sanctity of the upper house of parliament.

Minister of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, who had attended the July 14 meeting, has also expressed disappointment over the political administration’s attitude.

Read: Senate panel briefing: Afghan Taliban urged to renounce violence

The Senate committee is now scheduled to meet on July 31. Besides the political agent and the assistant political agent, the panel has served notices to the Fata additional chief secretary, the Fata law and order secretary, the Peshawar commissioner, the Fata tribunal registrar and the Landi Kotal tehsildar to appear before the body.

Moreover, the Safron ministry has been asked to make arrangements to bring the accused before the panel.

Express Tribune