Jirga decision: Authorities move to save ‘condemned’ Kohistani women

Posted on 29 May 2012

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By Muhammad Sadaqat
Published: May 29, 2012

Local police chief said that a police party, headed by a deputy superintendent police, has been sent to Seertaiy village to recover the girls who, The Express Tribune reported, were locked in a room and were being starved.

KOHISTAN:
In a bid to preempt the execution of six people condemned to death for “disrespecting gender segregation customs” in a remote village of Kohistan district, administration officials ordered the detention of eight tribesmen on Monday.

A jirga had declared four women and two men Ghul (fornicators) and condemned them to death after they were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing together at a wedding party in Bando Baidar village of Peech Bela union council.

“We have detained eight people (from the women’s tribe). And they have given us a written guarantee that the women would not be harmed,” Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai told The Express Tribune.

Umerzai added that he had seen the video showing the women and the men dancing and singing together.

“Judging by the local tribal culture, it is objectionable,” he said but added that he would not condone if a tribal jirga has condemned them to death as was reported by The Express Tribune on Sunday.

“The women have violated their tribal norms by dancing and singing with Na-mehrams (those who one can marry in Islam). But the law does not allow nobody to condemn them to death,” he added.

The commissioner claimed that the women were safe at the homes of their parents in Seertaiy village. He also confirmed that the condemned men have fled their village.

The local police chief said that a police party, headed by a deputy superintendent police, has been sent to Seertaiy village to recover the girls who, The Express Tribune reported, were locked in a room and were being starved.

Abdul Majeed Afridi, the district police officer, also endorsed Umerzai’s claimed that “the women are safe in their parents’ homes”.

Interestingly, DPO Afridi went back on his earlier statement and said that it was a local cleric, not a jirga, who condemned the six to death. On Sunday, he confirmed to The Express Tribune that a jirga had condemned them to death.

Afridi appears to have good knowledge of local tribal customs. “If a woman is found talking to a Na-mehram, she is ‘punished’ while the man is ‘wounded’ for his crime,” he said. However, he would not say how the woman is ‘punished’ and the man ‘wounded’.

Rights campaigners have condemned the jirga’s decision. In their statements, Sahara Development Foundation, Human Development Organisation, Rural Development Project, Integrated Human Rights Network, Aurat Foundation and Aurat Association called upon the government to ensure that the six people are not harmed.

They also demanded that the administration shift the women to Darul Aman for their security. They called for a ban on the jirga system which, they believe, is the root cause of discrimination against women in society.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/385619/jirga-decision-authorities-move-to-save-condemned-kohistani-women/

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The farce of tribal jirgas
By Editorial
Published: May 28, 2012

Tribal law is traditionally without ‘due process’. It is called ‘quick justice’, often condoned with the adage ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and wrongly equated with Islamic sharia. PHOTO: AFP

A tribal jirga in Kohistan in the Hazara division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has done something that reminds us of the days of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan and gives us a glimpse of a future Pakistan impacted by growing intolerance and bigotry. A tribal council of elders has condemned four women and two men to death for “staining the honour” of their families. A video presented to the jirga purported to show the alleged crime of ‘mixing’ of the sexes in violation of the law of ‘gender segregation’ during a wedding party while the accused allegedly dancing together.

After this shameful episode of ‘rough justice’, the convicted men fled the scene while the women were caught and locked up in a room in preparation for their execution. The Hazara administration is shocked by the ‘trial’ by jirga and the indifferent nature of the evidence presented for conviction: the video coverage actually shows the ‘convicts’ singing and dancing separately but they are shown in a single sequence. The reason behind this farce was not difficult to locate. It was a rival’s scheme to destroy a stronger and more affluent family. A member of one of the victim’s family stated: “Since our family is affluent and owns vast acres of forestland, orchards and agriculture farms in the village, our rivals hatched a plot to deprive us of them”.

Since Kohistan of Hazara is a tribal area, ostensibly there is nothing one can do about what has happened. There was no defence for the poor women who could not run away like the men, which reminds us that even the trial conducted by an official of the Khyber Agency recently condemned Dr Shakil Afridi for treason without giving him the right to defend himself. The cruel fact in Hazara is that a jirga, not an officer, has delivered the verdict and the victims are lucky that the sentence was not summarily executed. The jirga, however, has provided for that: It has tasked 40 young men to kill “the fornicators” and the tribe has raised a fund of Rs400,000 for litigation that may ensue once the local administration has taken cognisance of the shameful matter.

Tribal law is traditionally without ‘due process’. It is called ‘quick justice’, often condoned with the adage ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and wrongly equated with Islamic sharia. What jirga means in essence is a kangaroo court, in which the local influentials satisfy their instinct of vengeance and avarice. Pakistan has kept its tribal areas under a special dispensation where justice through jirga is legally recognised. In the settled areas also, there is a tendency to bypass the legal system under the Constitution through the panchayat. The panchayat is illegally functioning in Punjab and one cannot forget what happened to Mukhatran Mai when a powerful tribe got her gang-raped through an illegal council of elders some years ago; even the Supreme Court could do nothing to undo the horrible bestiality visited on her.

The Taliban unleashed what they said was Islamic justice on Afghanistan, for nearly a decade, with the help of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which recognised the Taliban government while the world shrank in horror. After the Taliban were gone, the Afghans expressed hatred of them by up to 85 per cent in an opinion survey. In Swat, the people were uninstructed in the requirements of justice and favoured the ‘quick justice’ they equated with Islam till they were brutalised by the warlord Mullah Fazlullah who was imposed on them by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that was established by the al Qaeda. When Fazlullah was finally ousted by the army, the people of Swat realised their error and repented. The Hazara-Kohistan jirga has used the jargon of na-mehram from Islamic jurisprudence to shield itself.

The truth is that Pakistan is being ‘re-tribalised’ under the influence of growing Talibanisation. Kangaroo courts are functioning in Pakistan’s vast ungoverned spaces where the state once nurtured its deniable jihadis. They are also raising their ugly heads in Punjab and Sindh because of the retreat of the state from its constitutional jurisdiction.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/385442/the-farce-of-tribal-jirgas/