PESHAWAR/BAJAUR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Saturday warned Bajaur tribesmen that it would take action against them if they failed to withdraw a local jirga decision of banning women from collecting cash stipends by themselves and making telephone calls to the local FM radio stations.
On Friday, a jirga in Mamond tehsil’s Warah area had banned local women from visiting cash collecting centres set up by the World Bank under a cash grant scheme and making phone calls to the local FM stations insisting the acts are against local customs. It also announced fines for ban violators.
In a statement issued here, spokesman for the provincial government Kamran Khan Bangash said the Constitution had no provision for jirgas.
He said the government had directed the divisional commissioner and deputy commissioner of Bajaur tribal district to hold talks with tribesmen to persuade them to withdraw their decision otherwise action would be taken against them under the law.
Says no justification for jirgas after Fata-KP merger
“There is no justification left for holding jirgas to decide matters after the tribal region’s merger with the province. Only the district administration is empowered to take decisions at tehsil and district levels and jirgas have no legality,” he said.
Mr Bangash asked tribesmen to take the district administration into confidence before making such decisions.
He said the decision taken by the jirga was against the law and Constitution and that no jirga was empowered to take such decisions related to women.
The jirga also declared that the visit of women to centres every month to receive the Child Wellness Grant was against local customs.
Tribal elders had said they had repeatedly requested the programme management to either give the amount to male members of the relevant women’s families or arrange women staff members at centres operated under the Sada-i-Amn programme of the bank, but to no avail.
They announced that no woman would be allowed to visit the centres from Saturday and Rs10,000 fine would be imposed on any tribesman, who allowed his female family member to visit the centres.
The jirga had also announced Rs10, 000 fine for the family of any woman, who called the local FM radio stations over the telephone.
Deputy commissioner of Bajaur Fayyaz Khan told reporters that the district administration had taken serious notice of the ban and strongly condemned it.
He said the ban imposed by elders on women from visiting the World Bank cash grant centres and calling the local FM radio stations was a matter of serious concern for the administration as they were ‘totally’ against fundamental human rights.
“The decision of elders is stupid and unlawful. No one has the right to ban the movement of women in the region after the merger of tribal districts with the province and extension of the country’s regular judicial system in the region.”
Mr Fayyaz said the elders’ decision was an attempt to take the law into their own hands, which the administration would never allow.
He said it was the moral and legal responsibility of the elders to approach to the district administration if they had any concerns and complaints about the procedure of cash grant scheme.
The deputy commissioner said elders had neither approached the administration nor lodged complaints about the scheme before imposing a ban on women in a jirga.
He said there was no legal status of jirga decisions in the region after the merger of tribal districts with province and extensions of judicial system in the area.
Mr Fayyaz said the administration was authorised to do away with such decisions for being against the basic rights of citizens.
He said a team of the district administration’s officials headed by the additional deputy commissioner would visit the area today (Sunday) to persuade elders form withdrawing their decision.
The deputy commissioner, however, said the first information reports would be registered against elders if they refused to withdraw their decisions to take legal action against them.
Meanwhile, scorers of women and rights activists on Saturday criticised the elders of Mamond tribe in Bajaur district for stopping women from visiting the World Bank cash distribution centres and calling the local radio stations.
They told Dawn that the elders had no right and authority to impose such restrictions as Bajaur was part of the province, which had a proper judicial system.
The women and rights activists said on one hand, the elders were not bothered about thousands of women working in fields away from their homes but on the other, they were stopping poor women from visiting the World Bank cash distribution centres in the name of the local customs and traditions.
They said there was nothing wrong with the women calling FM radio stations.
They demanded strict action against the jirga over the ‘shameful and unlawful’ anti-women decisions and appealed to the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court to take a suo moto notice of the matter.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2021