Tribal decisions: SC declares ‘jirgas’ unconstitutional

Published: March 27, 2012
In 2007, Justice Chaudhry had ordered immediate arrest of Bijarani and 10 others allegedly involved in offering five minor girls as compensation in a murder case

In 2007, Justice Chaudhry had ordered immediate arrest of Bijarani and 10 others allegedly involved in offering five minor girls as compensation in a murder case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the recent rape of a woman in Shiekhupura. Hearing cases on Tuesday regarding ‘jirgas’ that permit giving women to settle disputes, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked inspector general police (IGP) Punjab to arrest the culprits and submit a report on the incident within three days.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Chaudhry heard identical petitions filed by Samar Minallah and National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Anis Haroon against vani and swara customs exercised through jirgas and punchayats to settle disputes.

Accepting the stance of petitioners, SC termed holding of jirgas against the Constitution. Justice Chaudhry also asked the petitioners to submit details of such incidents in the next hearing on April 12 and also sought a report on a jirga held in Sindh which ordered five girls to be given as compensation to settle a murder dispute between two tribes. The decision of the jirga was taken in presence of Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani.

In 2007, a five-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Chaudhry had ordered immediate arrest of Bijarani and 10 others allegedly involved in offering five minor girls as compensation in a murder case and another case in 2006 that accused Bijarani of being party to a sang chatti incident. The chief justice asked Sindh Advocate General for details of the case to be submitted and whether progress was made to implement court orders. The advocate sought some time to submit his report.

While ordering strict action against organisers of such jirgas in accordance with article 10 (3) a, the chief secretaries and IGPs of all four provinces were asked to submit reports regarding details of such gatherings held in their respective areas, action taken by the police, registered FIRs, arrests, punishments and acquittals, challaned and pending cases.

The apex court expressed concern over lack of convictions in cases of acid crimes and the recent rape incident in Shiekhupura. The CJ gave detailed directions of establishing committees at district level so that complainants can have access at district bar level.

In another case, District Police Officer Zubair Dreshak from Mianwali submitted a report on 2 vani victims from Wan Bhachran, Naheed and Khatoon. They are currently residing with their parents. The court was assured that not only has the jirga decision been annulled but that the girls will be provided protection. Consequently, the case was disposed of.

Since 2004, after the Supreme Court took up the issue of girls given in compensation as swara, vani, sang chatti and irjaai, more than 60 girls from different parts of Pakistan were saved from paying the price of someone else’s crime, the CJ observed.

Minallah informed the apex court that in a recent hearing the Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court had directed the provincial and federal government to make a specific law for such tribal decisions, adding that even internationally this petition is seen as a positive example of judicial activism. She also informed the court about cases where parents defied jirga decisions and thus faced severe consequences.

For instance, four-year-old Asma’s father refused to hand over his daughter as swara in Dir in December 2011. Similarly, in December in Gujranwala a woman was shot and killed by her son for refusing to allow her 12-year-old daughter to be handed over as vani. Another case from Sindh was heard in May 2011 against Minallah’s petition where 12 girls were given in sang chatti.

In safe hands

60 girls at least were saved in Pakistan from being subject to vani, swara, sung chatti and irjaai since 2004, according to CJP.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (16)

  • wahab khan afridi
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:08AM

    laws shud take tribal elders in confidence other wise it wud create mess


  • Anonymous
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:19AM

    My eyes dream of that day,
    When prosperity is at bay,
    Karachi doesn’t bleed for no reason,
    And Islamabad is in its place,
    When there is Agriculture widespread
    With no landlord grabbing in chains,
    with no women declared a kari
    and men keep distance from rape
    I still dream of that day ,
    when a baluchi loves to say,
    Army is great,
    Pakistan is great,
    I still dream of the day,
    When women work with no concern,
    holding their heads up high,
    they bring no shame,
    I still dream of the day,
    when minorities can no longer say,
    that Pakistan is not their aim ,
    and they thrive in the rain.
    I dream of the day ,
    when we denounce nationalism,
    and only say one chant,
    that Pakistan is great.
    I still dream of that day,
    No matter how far it strays,
    I still dream of that day


  • Jibran
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:32AM

    PPP, and other major parties should cancel the memberships of their party members involved in events related to abuse of women. This includes Bijarani (PPP), Hamza Shahbaz Sharif (PML-N), Zulfiqar Khosa (PML-N), among others.

    CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry should pay at least some heed to cases that are not related to PPP. Corrupt practices of PML-N party members (financial corruption, torture of women, abuse of power, embezzlement of public funds) should not be swept under the carpet.


  • Mar 28, 2012 - 12:35AM

    Dont impose a system of ur own choice which u have adopted, they dont want it


  • ahmad
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:38AM

    Another GreaT positive step taken by CJ…i just hope now its implementaion is done honestly now.


  • Falcon
    Mar 28, 2012 - 1:09AM

    Bravo supreme court. This is certainly a big step towards containment of extra-judicial practices.


  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 28, 2012 - 1:43AM

    The CJ has finally woken up since 2007, wondering if his order for the arrest of a PPP Minister was executed. I wonder if the CJ reads the newspapers at all?? No one takes the CJ seriously anymore.


  • Nasir
    Mar 28, 2012 - 2:16AM

    about time they done this – the tribes need to realise we are not living in the stone ages


  • Cautious
    Mar 28, 2012 - 2:21AM

    Welcome to the 21’st century – better late than never


  • blithe
    Mar 28, 2012 - 3:36AM

    I would also request Supreme Court to disallow the abuse of the essence of Islam by bringing blood money and other bilateral arrangements to settle crime.

    There should not be two parrallel systems.


  • MarkH
    Mar 28, 2012 - 3:51AM

    @Pakistan politics:
    As usual, that makes no sense. If other Pakistanis are required to follow it then they should too.


  • A reader
    Mar 28, 2012 - 3:55AM

    While this issue should be addressed, to reach the verdict that it is the institution of jirga itself is unconstitutional is to invite trouble. Was it not just some days back when the CJP had asked the tribal leaders of Balochistan to come together in a grand jirga to resolve differences? Now anything they do (provided they even do it) will be null and void because of this ruling. Likewise with any jirgas carried out in Khyber-Pakhtunkwha.

    I think this issue is a problem, but this was not the correct decision to resolve it.


  • dv sikka
    Mar 28, 2012 - 5:11AM

    It is good that the CJ has taken some action. The real thing is that it should be handled with care by the political leaders. These are tribal customs which better be changed with friendly persuation.


  • Mar 28, 2012 - 7:30AM

    But as I think the Girga is most constitutional then our so called supreme court. Atless it can take a decision and a number of people accept it, but our SC is completly failed to impose law in stability in the country…


  • KH
    Mar 28, 2012 - 9:15AM

    @wahab khan afridi: No body should be taken in confidence when law has to be enforced. So called tribal leaders are answerable to justice, not the justice answerable to them.


  • Citizen
    Mar 28, 2012 - 9:46AM

    Better late than never .jirgas shuold be banned .And laws should be strictly implemented. Why women have to suffer all time and that too ,minor girls ? Such a shame.


More in Pakistan