Jirga ‘justice’

December 06, 2019

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RARELY does a day go by without news of horrific abuse inflicted upon the women and children of this land. Daily newspapers are filled with reports of ‘honour’ killing, domestic abuse, rape, harassment, revenge porn, paedophilia, kidnapping, forced marriage, and so on. Such violence perpetrated on marginalised groups seems to have become so common that it barely causes a stir in the public conscience. However, the alleged details of a recent case were so gruesome that they caused mass outrage among social media users. Some two weeks ago, a young girl was hastily buried under mysterious circumstances in a small town close to Dadu. Because of a local newspaper report, rumours started circulating that nine-year-old Gul Sama had been declared ‘kari’ (adulteress) by her parents, and was brutally stoned to death on the instructions of a local jirga. Her father refuted the claim, insisting his daughter had been killed in an avalanche of rocks from the nearby hills. But police were not convinced. Two days ago, the child’s body was exhumed from a graveyard in order to conduct medical tests. The marks and deep injuries on Gul Sama’s neck, face, nose, head and torso pointed to death by heavy objects. If the worst is confirmed, one would be at a loss for words. How could a child be accused of adultery? While the mother has now been released, the father and a maulvi are still under investigation.

Even as we wait for a clearer picture, it is a disturbing reality that certain tribal practices in the form of jirgas continue to be at odds with the Constitution. At the beginning of this year, the Supreme Court pointed out that jirgas and panchayats were in violation of many international treaties Pakistan is bound to, yet they are tolerated under the pretext of speedy justice. More often than not, the jirga institutionalises the oppression of women and girls it treats as property. It is time to outlaw such barbarism in the name of culture and expediency.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019