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FATA women reject crime laws, tribal administrative system

PESHAWAR: Women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have rejected outright the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and colonial legacy of the political administration, according to a research paper on FATA women.

Samina, a lecturer at University of Peshawar’s Philosophy Department, has written the research paper titled ‘Reforms in FATA and Perspectives of Tribal Women’.

The paper highlights the issues faced by FATA women who, the paper shows, believe that the FCR denies them their right to life, health, education, work, property ownership, and consent to marriage.

“They (tribal women) considered FATA’s special status as the main cause of underdevelopment in the region and demanded the abolishment of the political administration’s colonial legacy and the FCR,” the study paper quoted women as saying.

The paper highlights the absence of women in the existing political administration and local institutions in FATA. It also highlights women’s perspectives on reforms in the Tribal Agencies.

For her research paper, Samina — who uses only one name — selected two FATA agencies as the research sample. Empirical data has been collected from 100 females form the Kurram and Khyber Tribal Agencies. The women interviewed for the paper belonged to various strata of the tribal society including housewives, workingwomen, students, and unemployed but educated youths.

No women representation: The paper observed that women belonging to FATA had neither been consulted nor included in any reform process or committees. It said that no woman, whether tribal or non-tribal, had ever been employed in any cadre in the Political Administration in FATA. Due to the absence of women from the whole system, if women have grievances against their own relatives, they find no recourse.

Similarly, the paper said, in development schemes there was no mechanism to assess women’s needs and demands.

“There has never been an attempt to know if women want schools, colleges, health and skill centres, or income generation projects; and where they want them. Maliks and the political administration, often decide these, in self-interest. A Malik may propose a scheme to political authorities to sell/exchange his land to the government or in return for jobs for himself or his relatives. The primary consideration has never been need or accessibility to women,” the paper quoted FATA women as saying.

Gender-biased justice system: Samina, in her paper, stated that the justice system of FATA is also gender biased. Currently, she said, there were three justice system components that included FCR, Sarkari Jirga (Government Jirga) and Political Administration. Under FCR, in civil and criminal cases Political Agent/Assistant Political Agent constitute a Sarkari Jirga comprising of tribal elders or Maliks. Jirga uses its own methods to determine the innocence or guilt. Jirga sends its recommendations to the Political Agent who either agrees and confirms or rejects and reconstitutes another jirga. The decision and awards given by the Political Agent, executive orders, cannot be challenged in any court of law.

A few women in Khyber Agency registered their complaints of domestic violence in the office of the Political Agent, but their cases were referred to the jirga, which brushed them off saying ‘domestic’ issues were to be solved within the family.

Jirga inefficient: The paper stated that women in Kurram and Khyber Agencies unanimously rejected the myth that jirga was speedy and cost effective. They said jirgas failed to deliver justice as they could easily be manipulated through power and money.

The tribal women demanded that Jirga system should be replaced with Pakistani courts.

The tribal women also strongly condemned special status of FATA holding it responsible for poverty and lack of modern facilities in the Tribal Areas.

The tribal women also stated that their mobility was restricted in the Tribal Areas. Women in FATA consider increased opportunities for education, jobs and recreation absolutely necessary for progress. Regarding the veil, they said, the ‘chadar’ was enough to cover a woman and that women should have the freedom to go out for education, work and, health care.
Source: Daily Times
Date:3/20/2008

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