May 15, 2023

By Maryam Missal


The Sindh High Court (SHC) has termed that holding jirgas and passing order(s) for payments or giving away daughters is in violation of Article 4 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees the right of individuals to be dealt in accordance with the law.

During the hearing, it was brought to Justice Salahuddin Panhwar’s attention that despite judgments passed by the SHC in the cases of Rehmat Bibi and another vs. SHO, Karan Sharif, and Wadero Mohabat Khan Khoso vs. The State, the custom of holding jirgas to arbitrate on disputes is continuing in the upper part of Sindh.

Justice Panhwar in reference to previous rulings gave the order that, if any jirga was held in any region of Sindh, the SSPs and SHOs involved would be subject to criminal prosecution as well as departmental processes, the Justice further instructed IGP to ensure compliance with past rulings prohibiting the practice.

The bench added that district and session judges had already been given instructions to follow these rulings. In order to prevent the illegal practice of jirgas from continuing in any part of the province, they must also ensure that the relevant magistrates are qualified to issue notifications to the SSPs and SHOs concerned.

SC rules jirgas unlawful

In 2019, then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar ruled that Pakistan’s system of jirgas and panchayats is in violation of its international obligations during the hearing of a writ petition filed by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
The Supreme Court held that the system was directly opposed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to which Pakistan is a signatory.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
In 2017, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Act which proposed an alternate system of justice that can facilitate the settlement of disputes expeditiously without resorting to formal litigation.

ADR was introduced to increase the accessibility of civilians to the law and to put an end to the unlawful practices of jirga tribunals. Despite the presence of alternative courses to justice, the jirga system in Pakistan has yet to be formalized or completely dismantled.


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