The Women Action Forum (WAF) on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to uphold the Sindh High Court verdict declaring the jirga/panchayat system illegal.
The demand was made at a meeting held to draw attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in all parts of the country and increasing cases of violence against women.
The participants at the gathering strongly condemned the recent “outrageous” decision and verdict given by jirga members in Kohistan, where two men and four women were condemned to death for dancing at a wedding.
“WAF is seriously concerned at the inability and will of the state and the apathetic response to the rampant violence and suffering of the citizens, sectarian violence, and loss of lives in all parts of the country,” said the participants.
The Sindh High Court declared the Jirga system illegal in 2005.
In addition, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has filed a petition against such parallel legal systems that is currently being heard.
WAF said that as the lives of these six victims from Kohistan are in jeopardy, they must be freed and protected and the jirga members should be severely punished to set an example for those who take the law into their own hands.
The forum also condemned out of court settlements in cases of violence against women and girls, particularly rape cases such as the recent case of a 13-year-old school girl from Rawalpindi.
Talking to The Express Tribune, some of the women rights’ activists said such incidents are an eye opener for the state.
Former NSCW chairperson Anis Haroon said it is very unfortunate that in Pakistan there is no one who could hold the jirgas accountable for what they are doing with innocent women.
She said, “Where does the Islamic law say that a woman who claps during a celebration should be punished.”
“Illiteracy, poverty and weak implementation of laws in the country are the main reasons behind such evil acts,” said Haroon.
Decrees should be issued against dowries and violence against women among other things, she suggested.
Moreover, civil rights activist Farzana Bari noted that the root cause of such incidents is the lack of respect for individual rights in the country.
“Such incidents reflect the complete failure of the state and non-existence of rule of law. Non-state actors such as jirgas, and the taliban are taking full advance of this and imposing their own laws,” she said.
She urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take stern action against the parallel judicial systems in the country.
Moreover, Samar Minallah said the Jirga system is exploiting women and children. “In our country, women have always become victims of such parallel judicial systems and weak implementation of laws,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.