In 1996, Rasool Khan was 13 years old when Khyber Agency Assistant Political Agent convicted him to 17 years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 20,000 for allegedly stealing a cat. Upon completion of his sentence, Rasool Khan further stayed in prison for two years as he could not afford to pay the fine. Qismat Khan was 15 years old when he was arrested in 1995 and imprisoned for 45 years on charges of creating hindrance in the performance of official duty by government employees, rioting, instigating other people to riot, and carrying weapons. Aqal Deen was 18 years old when he was arrested on charges of murder and sentenced to 42 years of imprisonment. Under the provisions contained in Article 247 of Pakistan’s Constitution, these offenders did not possess the right to seek justice from superior courts against their sentences. These individuals were caught up in the web of the criminal justice system as children – they turned from helpless children to helpless adults and then eventually to helpless elderly persons.
Article 1 of the Constitution of Pakistan recognized FATA as a part of Pakistan while simultaneously highlighting a rigorous separation in terms of law applicable in FATA and the rest of Pakistan. In accordance with Article 247(7) of the Constitution, the criminal code of Pakistan did not apply to tribal areas and the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s high courts and Supreme Court was debarred in tribal areas. The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) of 1901 applied exclusively to FATA, and the right to appeal to an independent judicial authority outside FATA was not permitted. The human rights protections for inhabitants of FATA are abysmal. Fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution extended to the whole of Pakistan including tribal regions, however, their application could not be enforced by superior judiciary of the country under Article 199 and 184(3) of the Constitution. The FCR had no provisions pertaining to child rights, consequently, the children are treated at par with adults. Every year, a number of juveniles were sentenced to long prison terms under FCR without regard to their age, right to rehabilitation and socio-economic status. FCR is anchored on the principle of collective responsibility codified in Section 21, which extends to “seizure, wherever they may be found, of all or any of the members of such tribe, and of all and any property belonging to them or any of them” for an offence committed by one or more members of a tribe. This translates into juveniles being imprisoned for crimes they were not remotely related to. 
Section 40 of the FCR allowed the Political Agent to preventively imprison tribesmen for up to three years for the purpose of preventing murder, culpable homicide, and sedition. In October 2004, there were more than 70 children detained in various prisons across NWFP who had been charged under Section 40 of FCR, this included more than 16 boys and girls who were languishing in prison as a result of crimes committed by their fathers and extended family members. In 2011, FCR was amended to bar police authorities from arresting and detaining children below the age of sixteen for offences committed by a family member or tribe in FATA. However, in the same year, Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation (AACPR) 2011 was signed by the President. AACPR allowed for detention of children by armed forces for an unlimited timeframe without trial. Section 9(2) allowed children below the age of 18 to be detained in order to “maintain peace and order”.
Several provisions promulgated under national legislation pertaining to child protection have been extended to FATA. The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO 2000) was extended to FATA in 2014, the Employment of Children Act 1991 was extended to FATA in 1998, and the National Registration Regulation 1989, Extension of National Database and Registration Authority 2000 has also been extended to FATA. Despite promulgation of JJSO in FATA, its application was seldom observed. In December 2013, four male juveniles were convicted and detained in prisons across FATA for Collective Responsibility Clause under FCR. The tribal administration continues to treat juvenile offenders as adult prisoners under FCR. The UN Committee on the Rights of Child in October 2009 stated, “The JJSO is poorly implemented in the country and particularly in the FATA where the FCR, 1901 does not take into account child rights and allows, inter alia, for collective punishment.” Article 5 of JJSO maintains that no child shall be charged with or tried for an offence together with an adult. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has continually proposed a distinct system of juvenile justice for all those below the age of eighteen.
Due to problems of illiteracy and lack of resources, Pakistan suffers from the plague of unregistered births. The National Registration System was introduced in 1973 to encourage formal registration of births, however, this practice is still not widely practiced in the country. Birth registration is deemed as a fundamental right under Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). This right extends to a child possessing the right to be registered at birth, being given a name, acquiring a nationality and the right to be cared for by its parents. However, more than 10 million children under the age of five remain unregistered in Pakistan. These numbers are markedly worse in FATA where only 1% of children below the age of five are registered at birth, and the rest remain unregistered. These numbers reflect the lack of literacy and awareness regarding benefits of birth registration and weak birth registration mechanisms in FATA.
When unregistered children are forced into the web of criminal justice system, lack of knowledge regarding their age paves the way for wrongful arrests, detention, and executions. As per Section 10 of JJSO, it is the duty of the arresting officer to determine whether the person being arrested is a child or an adult. However, there is no mandatory requirement for police to investigate age of the accused at the time of arrest. Therefore, recording age of the accused person is at police’s discretion. In most cases, the police deliberately neglect age of the accused to retain their custody and deny them of the protections extended to juveniles under JJSO. Moreover, when police officers do note age of the accused, they do so based on cursory visual observation. There is a presumption of truth attached to police’s visual observation of an accused’s age at trial and appellate stage. The burden of proof invariably falls on the suspect to prove that they are juvenile. These juveniles do not possess official records to prove their age, therefore, they are subjected to trials as adults. In 2018, JJSO of 2000 was repealed by JJSO 2018. The 2018 Act adopted a progressive approach and extended more liberties to juveniles. The Act made it compulsory for the ranking officer-in-charge, or any investigation officer, to make an enquiry to determine the age of any alleged offender, who physically appears or claims to be a child. In 2018, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a landmark constitutional amendment and merged the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This negates the effect of FCR in FATA, however, juvenile justice protections are still abysmal in the region. In addition to resulting in wrongful convictions, the children of region previously known as FATA were also robbed of other opportunities since birth certificates are mandatory for school enrollment, passports, voter registration and marriage registration. In addition to streamlining the birth registration process, the State should take steps to ensure that a child protection law is approved and enacted in KP (previously known as FATA region). A legislative framework is vital for delivery of child protection services and institutionalized measures aimed at securing the future of children in KP (previously known as FATA region).
 ‘PESHAWAR: 19 Juvenile Offenders in Jail under FCR – Newspaper – DAWN.COM’ <https://www.dawn.com/news/358618/peshawar-19-juvenile-offenders-in-jail-under-fcr> accessed 18 July 2022.
 ‘FCR’s Collective Responsibility – Newspaper – DAWN.COM’ <https://www.dawn.com/news/684791/fcrs-collective-responsibility> accessed 18 July 2022.
 ‘ISLAMABAD: NWFP Jails Have over 70 Children under FCR’ (DAWN.COM, 18 October 2004) <http://beta.dawn.com/news/397344/islamabad-nwfp-jails-have-over-70-children-under-fcr> accessed 18 July 2022.
 ‘The Frontier Crimes Regulations (Amended in 2011) | The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ)’ <http://www.isj.org.pk/the-frontier-crimes-regulations-amended-in-2011/> accessed 18 July 2022.
 ‘The Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 | The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ)’ <http://www.isj.org.pk/the-actions-in-aid-of-civil-power-regulation-2011/> accessed 18 July 2022.
 ‘SPARC – Pakistan’s Leading Child Rights Organization’ <http://sparcpk.org/SOPC%20-%202020.html> accessed 18 July 2022.
 ‘Report of Child Protection System Mapping and Assessment in FATA’ <https://www.unicef.org/pakistan/reports/report-child-protection-system-mapping-and-assessment-fata> accessed 18 July 2022.
 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) FATA
 Waseem Ahmad Shah, ‘View from the Courtroom: Age Determination Issue under Juvenile Law Continues to Surface’ (DAWN.COM, 19 April 2021) <https://www.dawn.com/news/1618990> accessed 18 July 2022.