A government school teacher was fined Rs900,000 by a jirga in Larkana district recently after he was found guilty of raping and impregnating his student studying in the fourth grade. The jirga was headed by the Larkana chapter organiser of the PTI, Shafqat Unnar. The fact that a jirga issued a verdict on a crime as serious as the rape of a student — a minor — by a teacher indicates the failure of our criminal justice system. Primarily, it is a failure of the system that is unable to have the desired impact on citizens far and wide, citizens who continue to ignore laws laid out by legislatures as well as court decrees, having no fear of consequences. The practice of jirgas arbitrating legal and criminal matters displays disregard for the rule of law and the state’s writ. It is also by default a form of vigilante justice wherein those claiming to wield power actually have no state-sanctioned authority.
In this particular case, the jirga damaged the sanctity and respect of the law and the state by allowing a predator to roam free, ready to pounce on his next prey, wherever the teacher decides to relocate for the three years that he is barred from the district, as per the jirga’s ‘ruling’. Furthermore, neither we, nor the PTI, can ignore that the jirga was led by one of its representatives. The PTI considers itself to be a part of the democratic way of politics and yet, one of its members has endorsed an undemocratic way of dealing with crime. Members of our political class should be the last people endorsing the jirga system, but unfortunately this is not the first instance of a prominent politician seeing nothing wrong with this mode of justice. The PTI should consider firing this member for defying legal procedures. The judiciary, especially the lower courts, and law-enforcement agencies also need to appraise their performance. At the end of the day, the continued reliance on the jirga system demonstrates the failure of our police, prosecution and courts.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2016.
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