Around 500 Kohistani families who had for years — or perhaps, generations — tilled lands in the Mansehra district as tenants, have been asked to leave the Chattarplain where they were based, essentially over what appears to be a series of minor disputes. A jirga comprising the powerful Syed, Gujjar and Swati tribes of the area took the decision following an incident in which firing broke out after Kohistani and Swati youth engaged in a cricket match. Young players on both sides were injured and had to be taken to a hospital in Abbottabad where one injured Kohistani later died. The Swati tribe says the Kohistanis had been warned many times in the past over similar matters but had failed to comply. Apart from tenants, whom the jirga has ordered to depart, those who actually own land in the Swat area will no longer be permitted to bury their dead there.
The whole issue is yet another example of people failing to live harmoniously together in our country. It is also unfortunate that in this time and age, feudal gatherings determine the fate of so many people simply by making a decision that is based more on emotions than logic. The cricket match dispute seems to have triggered the order to leave. Many livelihoods will be affected in times that are already tough. Instead, the matter could have been settled in a less damaging fashion, allowing the Kohistanis to stay on and retain their means of livelihoods.
The incident is an indicator of how much we need to progress. There should surely be resort to the written law of the land when such matters arise. But unfortunately, the rule of law has broken down almost completely — notably in remote areas — and this only contributes to the more powerful people gaining still greater control over the lives of those who have less influence than themselves.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.
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