23rd December 2021
By Asim Ahmed Khan
Two young men were ordered to walk barefoot on embers to prove their innocence on the charge of theft in Ziarat, Balochistan. Both men were acquitted as their feet had no blisters or marks of singed skin after they came out unharmed through the fire-walk.
In a viral video on social media, the aforementioned individuals can be seen taking turns walking barefoot over a several-feet-long bed of burning coals in the presence of dozens of onlookers. Spectators are then seen putting garlands on the two youths and congratulating them for proving their innocence once they reach the other side.
Gul Zaman, one of the accused, said he worked for a local tribal elder as a tractor driver. The employer had accused him and a co-worker, Muhammad Raza, of stealing tractor parts.
“Two weeks ago, tractors, batteries and generators were stolen. The next day, when the tractor and equipment were found missing, he informed the owners,” he said.
According to Gul Zaman, the owners blamed the theft on him and Mohammad Raza, and imprisoned and severely tortured them.
“He told me that you have to walk barefoot on burning coals to prove yourself innocent,” Zaman added.
Assistant Commissioner Sanjawi Hassan Anwar confirmed the incident and said that the parties to the matter decided to resolve the matter through this ritual instead of lodging complaints with the law enforcement agencies.
Informed the administration about jirga: organiser
But the organizer of the walk-through-fire ritual, Saifuddin, said he was appointed as a mediator after the Levies refused to intervene in the matter.
“One side wanted to file a theft case and the other side wanted to file a case of detention and kidnapping. Both had reached the local Levies police station, but the officers did not want to register the case. So they made me a mediator and told me to settle their case in a tribal way,” he said.
He added that as the allegation of theft has been proven wrong, the owners will now take gift both men sheep, render an apology and also pay compensation.
Saifuddin said that he had informed the Levies as well as the district administration officials before the ceremony was held, and that no one objected.
However, Levies official and district administration both refused this claim.
Levies police Investigating Officer Abdul Khaliq denied involvement in the incident, saying no one had come to them to register a case of theft or kidnapping, nor had Levies asked the tribals to resolve his dispute through a jirga or a ritual.
According to the Assistant Commissioner, the district administration had no prior knowledge of the jirga, but so far no action has been taken against the organizers of the jirga.