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Pakistani Tribesmen Call For Legal, Constitutional Reforms

Pakistani tribesmen gather for a protest rally in Islamabad on October 9.

Hundreds of people from Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have rallied in the capital, Islamabad, calling on the federal government to implement legal and constitutional reforms in the northwestern region.

A group of FATA legislators led the October 9 rally in which participants called for the abolishment of a century-old legal code known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) that is still governing FATA.

They also demanded the merger of FATA with the adjacent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Shahabuddin Khan, a tribal lawmaker from the Bajaur district, said they would continue pressuring the government until the FCR was abolished and the tribal areas were fully incorporated into the rest of Pakistan.

At the start of a two-day demonstration earlier this month, legislators from FATA set up a protest camp in front of parliament in Islamabad.

The Islamabad government has approved plans to bring FATA under current federal law rather than governing the region by the FCR, which was established under British rule. The legal code includes the practice of collective punishment, allowing government authorities to hold entire clans responsible for the crimes of individuals.

Key reforms would also include extending the jurisdiction of Pakistan's national courts, incorporating tribal law enforcement into the national security forces, and establishing parliamentary representation for the tribal areas.

However, differences among political parties and parliament deputies over the future constitutional status of FATA have blocked the process.

Some want FATA to be a separate province while others want the region to be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The seven tribal districts in FATA -- Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, and Orakzai -- are home to some 5 million people, mainly ethnic Pashtuns.

The region, located along Pakistan's northwestern border with Afghanistan, has long been a stronghold for Taliban militants and other extremist groups.

With reporting by AFP