Govt’s policy leaves people in the lurch: Status of Northern Areas
4 January 2007
Islamabad: People of the Northern Areas (NAs) are facing a lot of problems in getting justice as they are still devoid of basic human rights due to confusion and contradictions in government’s policy over the status of their region and lacunas in the Constitution. Since independence the government has formulated several laws to govern these areas, but it did not implement them in letter and spirit. According to informed sources this attitude of the federal government had sown confusion and contradictions in its policy vis-à- vis the Northern Areas. Giving an example of this policy of confusion, the sources said that the federal government had set up an accountability court for the NAs in the recent past, but its appellate court had so far not been established there. “Despite the establishment of the accountability court in the Northern Areas, all cases registered by the National Accountability Bureau against the people of Northern Areas are being tried in the accountability court of Rawalpindi,” the sources said. According to law ministry sources, the Northern Areas did not come under the purview of the NAB earlier, but in June 2000 the jurisdiction of NAB was extended to the Northern Areas with the issuance of an (Adaptation and Enforcement) Order-2000. But, even after the lapse of six years, the government had not set up an appellate court in the NAs, thereby depriving the people of their basic right of access to justice in their areas. Adding salt to their injuries, when the people of Northern Areas try to file appeals in courts in any part of Pakistan to challenge the decision of the accountability court, they are told that being residents of “disputed area” they cannot get justice in Pakistan. The sources said that on the one hand the government had extended the NAB Ordinance to the Northern Areas and all such cases were tried in accountability courts of Rawalpindi, but on the other, it had pleaded in many cases in the past that NAs were “disputed areas” which were not part of the country. This sort of policy confusion and contradictions has left the people in the lurch who desperately want to know what is their fate? 'If Northern Areas are not in Pakistan then why NAB cases are being registered against the people living there and why they are being tried in Pakistani courts,' some of the affected people, whose cases are being tried in Rawalpindi’s accountability courts, asked this scribe who was present in the court to report the court proceedings. The affected people told Dawn that if their area was part of Pakistan, then their cases must be tried in Northern Areas and an appellate court for NAB cases should also be set up there. Click to learn more...