This report is part of AGHS Legal Aid Cell’s campaign ‘Report SGBV – Break the Silence’.
July 3, 2023
By Maryam Missal
One Syed Mohammad, in compliance with the commands of a jirga head, killed his sister in the name of ‘honour’ in Girdi Jangal. The victim, an Afghan refugee, was previously in the custody of the Levies Forces but was surrendered to her family.
Girdi Jangal is an Afghan refugee camp near Chagai district, alongside the border between Afghanistan and Balochistan. According to locals, the area is a hub of extremist terror groups.
The victim was accused of having illicit relations with a man. A jirga, led by an Afghan refugee Ahmad Shah, imposed a Rs. 2 million fine on the victim’s alleged lover whereas the woman was sentenced to death.
Sources say that the jirga accused the couple of committing adultery, however in reality the pair had only attempted to elope. Upon the verdict, Levies Forces took the woman into protective custody but eventually returned her to her family. On June 28, she was produced before the jirga by her family where her brother shot her dead.
Jalila Haider, a lawyer and human rights activist from Balochistan, held that the Levies Forces are largely made up of men with feudal mindsets, and are expected to follow the orders of jirgas.
Shortly after news of the murder circulated on social media, Deputy Commissioner (DC) Chagai, confirmed Syed Mohammad, son of Bacha Mama, has been arrested. The administration also ensured action against the leaders of the jirga involved in extrajudicially handing down the death penalty against the victim.
Local sources allege that Ahmad Shah is allegedly backed by the terror group active in the area, and has fled the country to seek protection in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, all others who were part of the jirga have yet to be arrested.
“The constitution of Pakistan discourages the concept of the ‘state within a state’, which includes jirgas as well… but when the law is not implemented and the judicial system is hectic, people find remedy in alternatives like local jirgas,”
Voicepk.net made several attempts to contact Assistant Commissioner Chagai and the other administrative officers but received no response.
SC declares Jirgas unlawful
In 2017, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Act which proposed an alternate system of justice to facilitate the settlement of disputes expeditiously without resorting to formal litigation. The system was an attempt to increase access to justice as well as to put an end to the unlawful practice of jirga and panchayat tribunals. In spite of this law, the jirga/panchayat system has yet to be formalized or completely dismantled.
During hearing of a 2019 writ filed by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, then-Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar ruled that Pakistan’s system of jirgas and panchayats is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).