CHITRAL: The head of the top human rights body of Pakistan has expressed reservations over the way nikahs (marriage contracts) of newly converted Kailashi women are being solmenised and annulled.
Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chohan, chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), visited the Kailash tribes in upper Chitral, stated that the Kailashi society is a remarkable model of interfaith tolerance where practitioners of Kailashi religion and Muslims are living in peace and harmony.
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“To protect and promote this tranquillity, the government must protect the constitutional rights of religious freedom granted to every citizen," he noted while speaking at a news conference after the conclusion of a four-day official visit to Chitral.
Justice (retd) Chohan expressed concerns over reports of divorces among Kailashi women immediately after their conversion and marriage to Muslim men without any social and financial arrangements for their sustenance – as enshrined in law.
Terming the practice as a grave violation of the rights of Kailashi women, Justice (retd) Chohan said that protecting the legal and marital rights of newly converted Kailashi girls is the fundamental constitutional responsibility of the state and hence the local administration.
“The nikkah of the converted Kailashi girls must be solemnised only by the government's approved nikah registrars, who should ensure that all the legal rights of the bride, particularly determining the age, presence of the ‘wali’ (legal guardian), proper Haq Mehar (alimony) and the right of divorcing the husband are secured in the nikah form.”
Appreciating the tolerance and broad mindedness of Kailashi elders, who the NCHR chief said have allowed their women to change religion and get married according to their own wishes, reflects the centuries old Kalashi custom of gender parity and social equality.
He emphasised that the ancient practices of Kailashi society are an invaluable and indispensible part of Pakistan's culture and heritage and that the concerned quarters must prioritise guarding, nourishing and sustaining the Kailashi way of life by ensuring their socio economic welfare.
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In this regard complaints and grievances of Kailash residents about the land settlement and the conventional use of silver oak forest must be immediately addressed. So that economic exploitation of Kailashi people can be prevented, he said.
Justice (r) Chohan also urged the federal and provincial governments to pay attention to the difficulties being faced by tourists visiting Kailash valley owing to the dilapidated condition of the road and the condition of obtaining no-objection certificates from authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2017.