February 6th, 2021
On Friday, February 6, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organized an event titled “Jirgas in Sindh and Judicial System,” to raise awareness about the pitfalls of the prevalent archaic practice in the province.
The event was organized under the HRCP’s “Voice and Visibility” program through which HRCP has partnered with local stakeholders to raise public awareness about social evils that have had severe impacts on society’s marginalized communities.
The event was attended by people from several sections of society, particularly academics, lawyers, civil rights activists, and journalists. The event was moderated by Imdad Chandio, the Hyderabad focal person of the commission, while the keynote speaker of the event was Professor Amar Sindhu, an eminent veteran women’s rights activist, associated with the Women’s Action Forum (WAF).
The undue impact of the Jirga System on Women
Activists who participated in the event pointed out that though the impacts of the jirga system percolate all layers of society, it is women who are at the receiving end of the extremely barbaric judgments that are passed out by jirgas. Sindhu highlighted the fact that the predominantly male panels of jirgas imagine women as ‘objects’ or the ‘property of men’, and hence use the female body to punish men for their trespasses.
In instances where a man murders another man, it is women who are used as bargaining chips (“Deet/Qias” or “blood money payment”). Subjecting them to a lifetime of continuous abuse.
She said that though the cases of women being used as ‘fines’ have decreased thanks to the Supreme Court (SC) judgments addressing the issue, the number of women being used this way still remains too large to ignore.
Entrenched feudal cultural norms
Participants of the event pointed out that contrary to popular belief the jirga set-up was far from being neutral. “Especially in areas of upper Sindh, the landlords or the feudal use these jirgas to maintain and enhance their political and social power with complete disregard for justice,” explains Imdad Chandio, the moderator of the event. “There is massive cultural baggage, which is keeping this barbaric judicial system intact. It is of utmost importance that our younger generation is educated about the evils of this practice,” he continues.
Multiple parallel judicial systems
The participants of the event highlighted that Jirgas were not the only parallel legal system present in the country. The presence of the Military Courts, Accountability Courts also represent a parallel judicial system. It is important to note that we need to streamline the judicial system of our country. Because the existence of multiple parallel judicial systems tends to take away from the legitimacy of the judicial process,” explains Imdad Chandio.
Failure of the courts?
Those who were present at the event pointed out that one of the major reasons why the jirga system has persisted for so long is the lack of faith in the justice system. People are of the view that the courts are either inefficient or are too overburdened to deliver timely justice to the people.
It was highlighted how important it was to strengthen the justice system, so that the need for jirgas dies out on its own, said those present.