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Future Uncertain For Pakistani Cases Dating Back To Colonial Era Law

12 Hour Gandhara - RFE/RL Gandhara - RFE/RL

For decades, a part of Pakistan languished under a colonial law that established collective responsibly, denied rights, and inflicted harsh punishments on millions of Pashtun tribespeople. That law is now gone. But nearly a year after the repeal of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) legal code, the future remains uncertain for more than 400 civil and criminal cases originally lodged under its various archaic clauses. “Now that the [proper] laws and constitution are being implemented in the [former] tribal areas, there is no mechanism for dealing with cases lodged under the FCR,” Latif Afridi, a senior lawyer in the northwestern city of Peshawar, told Radio Mashaal. Last week, the Peshawar High Court, the apex court for northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, of which Peshawar is the capital, called on the provincial government and Islamabad to explain how to proceed amid such legal complications. “One solution could be if the provincial assembly adopted a new law that clearly enables the lower and appeals courts to hear these cases,” he said. “A new law could also establish a special court for these cases.” The FCR were the law of the land in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for decades. The century-old legal code appointed collective responsibility, meaning an entire clan or tribe could be punished for the alleged crimes of an individual or any offense taking place in their territory. The laws empowered government bureaucrats and denied FATA residents basic rights and the rule of law.  The FCR were partly responsible for the mayhem in the region. After 9/11, FATA turned into a main battleground for Pakistan’s war on terrorism. Over more than a decade, terrorist attacks and military operations killed tens of thousands of FATA residents, while episodes of fighting displaced more than half of its 6 million residents. The draconian laws prevented FATA residents from protesting for their rights because political activism was illegal. Last May, the Pakistani Parliament abolished the FCR after merging FATA into the adjacent province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But the Fata Interim Governance Regulation (FIGR) that Islamabad introduced to replace the FCR was struck down by the Peshawar High Court in October. Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld its ruling in January and ordered that regular courts be established across former FATA within the next six months. The abolition of the FIGR also ended the FATA tribunal created in 2011 to review decisions or sentences handed down under the FCR. The legal code, first concocted and implemented by British colonialists in the late 19th century, gave overwhelming power to government administrators, typically civil servants, to adjudicate civil and criminal cases. They often relied on a handpicked jirga or tribal assembly to reach verdicts. The courts never followed due process. One of the most famous cases under the FCR is that of a Pakistani doctor. In May 2012, an FCR court handed Shakil Afridi a 33-year sentence for allegedly supporting an Islamist militant group in his home district of Khyber, bordering Afghanistan. Islamabad originally accused the physician of running a fake vaccination campaign to help the C.I.A. locate Osama bin Laden in the northwestern garrison city of Abbottabad in 2011. Afridi’s appeal was also pending in the FATA tribunal. “There is a lot of confusion,” Ijaz Mohmand, a lawyer, told Radio Mashaal. He says that senior judges in the Peshawar High Court are unsure how to deal with such cases. “I am pursuing many cases in the high court, and even the judge there is very confused. He tells us that they will make a decision about how to deal with these cases.” Earlier this month, courts began functioning in the erstwhile FATA and began tackling the thousands of cases previously considered by government bureaucrats. Shaukat Yousafzai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister, says that all court cases in former FATA will gradually be moved to regular courts. “There will be one law everywhere, so it won’t matter whether a court in [the eastern city of Lahore] hears a case or a court in FATA or in [the southern seaport city of] Karachi,” he told Radio Mashaal. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also pledged his commitment to streamline former FATA. On March 18, he announced a three-week consultative process to devise a 10-year development plan for the region. “Our people in the tribal area will see unprecedented development as [the] government plans to spend over Rs100 billion [$1 billion] annually for [the next] 10 years in tribal districts,” he wrote on Twitter.

Bombing Blamed For Deadly Train Derailment In Pakistan

1 Day Gandhara - RFE/RL Gandhara - RFE/RL

Police in Pakistan say at least four people have been killed and seven injured by a remote-controlled bomb that exploded on a railway line in southwestern Pakistan just as a Quetta-bound passenger train was passing by. The March 17 attack occurred in the Dera Murad Jamali area of the volatile province of Balochistan, about 300 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital, Quetta. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which caused a partial derailment of the train.

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Pakistan PM Hails Afghan Peace As Within Reach

16 Mar 2019 Gandhara - RFE/RL Gandhara - RFE/RL

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on March 15 that peace in Afghanistan is "around the corner," citing ongoing negotiations between the United States and Taliban insurgents. Islamabad is credited for arranging Washington's direct dialogue with the Taliban that U.S. officials say has "made real strides" in recent days. "Negotiations have been initiated with the Taliban. God willing, our brothers in Afghanistan would live together in peace in coming days," Khan told a large public gathering in northwestern Bajaur tribal district on the Afghan border. Without elaborating, Khan said the peace process would result in stability, trade, and economic prosperity for the region, and particularly for Afghanistan to enable the war-torn country to stand on its own feet. "A good government will be established in Afghanistan, a government where all Afghans will be represented. The war will end, and peace will be established there," Khan said. U.S. and Taliban officials concluded their latest round of discussions on March 12 in Qatar, saying they have reached a preliminary draft agreement toward resolving the 18-year Afghan war. The issues in focus are the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign troops in Afghanistan in return for Taliban guarantees that Afghan soil would not be allowed to become a hub for international terrorists. A final understanding would then lead to intra-Afghan peace talks and a comprehensive cease-fire, according to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. chief negotiator. 'Strategic Depth' Pakistan has long been accused of covertly backing and sheltering leaders of the Taliban insurgency under its policy of retaining a so-called "strategic depth" in Afghanistan to contain the growing influence of archrival India there. But officials in Islamabad insist the country has long abandoned the policy of supporting a single group in the neighboring country and says "peace in Afghanistan is now Pakistan's strategic depth." Pakistani officials say facilitation of U.S.-Taliban talks and ongoing construction of a robust fence along the country's traditionally porous 2,600-kilometer (1,600-mile) Afghan border also are a manifestation of Islamabad's resolve toward promoting regional peace and stability. “Fence means we are looking for our national security and not the strategic depth anymore,” senior government officials maintained while speaking to VOA in background interviews. Pakistani officials acknowledge that Taliban insurgents still use Afghan refugee populations in the country, especially those located near the border, as hideouts. Authorities say they are reluctant to mobilize security forces to search for militants in the camps, where tens of thousands of displaced families have been living for years under the protection of the United Nations. Pakistan says it is committed to upholding its international undertakings. Islamabad says it hopes that when peace returns to Afghanistan, the refugee families would be able to go back to their side of the border, effectively ending the security challenge posed by the makeshift camps. -- Voice Of America

Islamic World Reacts With Disgust At New Zealand Mosque Attacks

15 Mar 2019 Gandhara - RFE/RL Gandhara - RFE/RL

JAKARTA (Reuters) -- Political and Islamic leaders across Asia expressed their disgust at the deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand on March 15 as some revealed their citizens had been caught up in the bloodshed. The timing of the shootings in the city of Christchurch, during Friday prayers, and the posting on social media of what appeared to be live, point-of-view video footage of the assault by a gunman added to the distress of many. "Indonesia strongly condemns this shooting act, especially at a place of worship while a Friday prayer was ongoing," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement. She was earlier cited by media as saying six Indonesians had been inside the mosque when the attack occurred, with three managing to escape and three unaccounted for. Indonesia's ambassador to New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya, told Reuters that inquiries were being made as to whether Indonesians were caught up in the attack. There are 331 Indonesians in Christchurch, including 134 students, the Foreign Ministry said. In Muslim-majority Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the biggest party in its ruling coalition, said one Malaysian had been wounded in the attack he described as a "black tragedy facing humanity and universal peace." "I am deeply saddened by this uncivilized act, which goes against humanistic values and took the lives of civilians," he said in a statement. "We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand." New Zealand authorities confirmed "multiple" deaths but they did not say how many or identify any victims. New Zealand media reported "dozens" of dead. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman condemned what he called a "racist and fascist" attack. "This attack shows the point which hostility to Islam and enmity to Muslims has reached," Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter. "We have seen many times Islamophobic discourse against Islam and Muslims turning into a perverse and murderous ideology. The world must raise its voice against such discourse and must say stop to Islamophobic fascist terrorism," he said. The founder of India's All India Muslim Personal Board, a non-government body of scholars, Kamal Faruqui, said the attack was "highly condemnable." "An anti-Muslim virus is spreading across the world," he said. "People of all religions should be very worried." Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Wahidullah Waissi, said on Twitter that three Afghans had been wounded. "My thoughts are with the family of Afghan origin who've been shot and killed at this heinous incident." Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal condemned the incident on social media, using the hashtag #pakistanagainstterror. Ordinary people expressed their horror online about a widely disseminated video of a man apparently indiscriminately shooting people inside a mosque with an assault rifle. The video has yet to be confirmed by authorities as being posted by a shooter involved in the attack. "Feeling very sick, that person is brainless and a savage," said one Indonesian Twitter user who identified himself as Farhan Adhitama. New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said many of those caught up in the shootings may have been migrants and refugees. "They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand," she said. 

Iranian Rights Lawyer Sotoudeh Faces Long Prison Term, Lashes

14 Mar 2019 Gandhara - RFE/RL Gandhara - RFE/RL

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian lawyer known for defending women's rights, has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term and 148 lashes, according to her husband. The charges include "colluding against the system" and "insulting" Iran's supreme leader. Amnesty International says Sotoudeh's case is part of an increasingly harsh crackdown on rights activists in Iran.