ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a dialogue agreed that jirga system as an alternative dispute system but there was a strong need for reforms related to human rights, minority representation and a change in its representation.
A policy dialogue on “Understanding Pakhtun Jirga: The way forward,” organised by Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP), highlighted areas where improvement could make the parallel justice system more representative and fair.
CAMP Chief Executive Naveed Ahmed Shinwari shared a report, “Understanding Justice Systems of K-P, Fata and Balochistan,” and remarked that it was an encouraging sign that people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) want reforms in the prevalent system of justice.
For instance, he stated, about 59 per cent of respondents in the survey were of the view that a women’s jirga should be formed to resolve their issues. While 58 per cent respondents strongly agreed that jirga members should be sensitised through an educational programme on human rights, women’s rights, shariah and the Constitution of Pakistan.
Dr Saba Gul Khattak, a researcher commented that there was a class bias in the jirga system and hence in the majority of cases members could not remain partial. The prejudice against minorities is apparent in these jirgas but interestingly, Christians are more likely to be considered untouchable than the Sikh minority” she said. She was of the view that the government’s role should also be reviewed to determine whether the state was subcontracting its responsibility of dispensing justice.
Tabassum Adnan, chairperson and founder Khwendo Jirga (Sisters’ Jirga) shared her personal experience of discrimination against women in jirgas and her struggle that led to her inclusion in the Swat Grand Qaumi Jirga.
“Women are denied justice in tribal areas and jirgas are prejudiced towards them. There is a need for more women-centered justice systems,” she said.
Muttahida Qabail Party Chairman Habib Malik Orakzai criticised human rights bodies’ way of highlighting only negative aspects of the jirga. “Why do such organisations defame the jirgas and only focus on the wrong decisions and not the good ones like resolution of years’ old disputes in a short time,” he remarked. He also suggested monitoring cells of jirgas’ decisions to keep a record and an eye on them.
Rights activist Farzana Bari stated that the jirga system was still elitist and male-dominated where women were denied justice.
She urged the government to promulgate a uniform set of civil and criminal laws in the country for equal dispensation of justice.