Tribal courts: SHC seeks official version against jirgas

Published: December 8, 2012
In 2005, the court declared all jirgas
illegal but the practice continues. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

In 2005, the court declared all jirgas illegal but the practice continues. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

KARACHI: Seven years after the Sindh High Court (SHC) declared jirgas illegal, it wants to know what steps the provincial and federal governments have taken to bring an end to the parallel judicial system running in the country.

The court has called for replies to be filed from the authorities on a petition seeking legislation against jirgas to settle “karo-kari” cases in Sindh.

Jirgas are assemblies of tribal elders that take decisions by consensus to settle all kinds of disputes. Once the decision has been announced by these tribal courts, the defendants have no right to appeal against the penalties imposed.

Over the years, hundreds of women and men have been killed in the name of honour on orders of such tribal jirgas, submitted the petitioner, Rana Faizul Hasan. He sent applications to the provincial chief secretary, inspector general of police and the home department to take action against jirga members who ordered the execution of couples but no action has been initiated against them.

In 2005

“Honour killings have increased and the police have failed to control despite having the knowledge of the matter,” Hasan contended, appealing to the court to direct the federal and provincial governments to make laws declaring all anti-women practices, including karo-kari, Wani, Swara, punishable offences. In 2005, the SHC declared all jirgas illegal but the practice continues. Appearing on court’s notice on Friday, the deputy attorney general, additional advocate general and Sindh police AIG (Legal) requested the court to give them more time to file comments of the authorities. SHC chief justice Mushir Alam, who was heading the bench, instructed the law officers to submit the replies before the next hearing date.

Recently, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also took suo motu notice of illegal tribal courts in Sindh. A three-member apex court bench has reserved its verdict after initiating formal proceedings on November 30.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2012.

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