Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi was convicted of treason last week and sentenced to 33 years in prison by a tribal court in northwestern Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Labeled a patriot by the United States and a traitor by Pakistan, Afridi was punished for helping the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces last year in Abbottabad. The doctor ran a vaccination campaign as a pretext to gather DNA to verify bin Laden’s presence in the garrison town.
Afridi was tried in a Khyber Agency tribal court, which follows the Frontier Crimes Regulation, a controversial set of laws different from those followed by the rest of Pakistan.
Under that system, cases are decided by a group of elders and a political agent vested by the government with almost absolute power to mete out punishments and interpret law. Defendants in the tribal court do not have the right to present material evidence, nor do they have the right to an attorney.
The “FCR is a draconian and inhuman law,” said Ijaz Mohmand, president of the FATA Lawyers Forum. “Under this law, if a member of a tribe commits some crime, the whole tribe is responsible for the acts committed by the other person. Their houses are demolished, they are arrested, fines are imposed on the whole tribe.”
The FCR was first enforced by the colonial British government in 1901 to maintain control over the ethnically Pashtun people who inhabited the areas of what was then northwestern India along the Afghan border. But after Pakistan was established, the law remained in force only in the FATA.
Critics question not only the fairness of the code but also whether it should even have been applied in this case. Afridi carried out his activities in Abbottabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, miles from the Khyber Agency in the FATA, where his trial took place and where the FCR typically is enforced. Afridi was a resident of the Khyber Agency. (Source: Washtington Post)
Lashkar-i-Islam denies links with Shakeel Afridi (May 31, 2012)
The militants accused in a Pakistan court of conspiring with a doctor recruited by the CIA to find Osama bin Laden said Thursday they had nothing to do with him.
Shakeel Afridi was on May 24 sentenced to 33 years in jail after he was found guilty of treason under Pakistan’s system of tribal justice.
Afridi was convicted by the court of treason under the penal code, but for alleged ties to Lashkar-i-Islamand not for working for the CIA.
The court order said Afridi had “close links” to the group, saying the doctor’s “love” for Bagh and “association with him was an open secret”.
But a commander in the organisation told AFP that they had nothing to do with Afridi.
“We have no link to such a shameless man,” the commander said on condition of anonymity.
The court said Afridi paid two million rupees ($21,000) to Lashkar-i-Islam and helped to provide medical assistance to militant commanders in Khyber.
But the commander said the $21,000 was a fine imposed for over-charging patients.
“Afridi and his fellow doctor were fleecing tribesmen, giving them fake medicines and doing fake surgeries. We had a lot of complaints against them and imposed a fine of two million rupees on them,” he said.
Local residents have also told AFP that Bagh fined Afridi for performing “unnecessary surgeries and over-charging” patients at his private clinic in the town of Bara. (Reuters)
EXPERT ANALYSIS ON DRACONIAN LAW OF FCR BY FAZAL UR REHMAN AFRIDI :
Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), is presently applicable to the semi-autonomous territory of Pakistan known as FATA, an abriviation for Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Administratively, FATA is divided into seven political agencies namely Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North and South Wazirstan, and six Frontier Regions: Peshawar FR, Kohat FR, Bannu FR, D I Khan FR, Tank FR and Lakki Marwat FR. The act has been condemned by senior judges including noted Pakistani Supreme court judge Justice A.R Cornelius as “obnoxious to all recognised modern principles governing the dispensation of justice” in the case of Sumunder vs State (PLD 1954 FC 228).)
According to a 1998 national census, FATA has a population of nearly 5.7 million, but presently, according to un-official figures its population is approximately 7 million. The area covered by it is 27,220 sq kms with a porous border of 450 kms with Afghanistan. The literacy rate is 16 per while female literacy is less than one percent. Nearly 66 per cent of households live below the poverty line. According to a WHO report of 2001 nearly 50 per cent of tribesmen are living in abject poverty, 75 per cent have no access to clean drinking water. Problems of infant and maternal mortality are severe.
Before 1956, FCR covered the whole of the NWFP; but through an amendment, the settled districts of the province were exempted from FCR. Similarly, FCR was abolished in 1973 in Balochistan. The rest of the Tribal Areas, namely the Agencies of Mohmand, Kurram, Khyber, Bajaur, Orakzai, North Wazirstan, South Wazirstan, and the adjoining areas of Kohat, Peshawar, Bannu, Lakki , Tank and Dera Ismail Khan Districts were declared as FATA and were covered by the black law of FCR.
The administration of Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of NWFP and Balochistan is the direct responsibility of these two provinces. While, FATA is governed directly by the Federal Government.
NOTE: Resently, some changes have been introduced in FCR by President Asif Ali Zardari but they are cosmetic in nature. This verdict against Shakil Afridi show the hollowness of the changes introduced.