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Jirga bars women from recreational spots in Bajaur tehsil

BAJAUR: A jirga of elders of the Salarzai tehsil in Bajaur tribal district on Saturday banned women from visiting tourist/picnic spots, and announced that if the government didn’t implement the decision by Sunday (today) the jirga members would take it upon themselves to impose it.

The all-male jirga (tribal council), held at the hilly Danqool area, was organised by the local chapter of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, which is also one of the main members of the ruling coalition.

The move comes just days after the World Economic Forum, in its Global Gender Gap Report, ranked Pakistan as the second worst country in terms of gender parity in the world as well as the region.

Besides scores of elders from various tribes and areas of the Salarzai tehsil, a number of JUI-F leaders and religious figures of the region also attended the gathering, held after the JUI-F district leadership raised concerns during their presser on Thursday over what they called ‘unethical’ activities in the name of entertainment at Ragagan dam.

Council claims no room in Islam, local customs for women’s presence in public places

Addressing the gathering on Saturday, JUI-F district chief Maulana Abdur Rasheed — who also belonged to the Salarzai region, senior party leader Haji Said Badshah — who is also the chairman of Khar tehsil council, and other speakers pointed out that the jirga was meant to discuss several issues of the region that emerged during Eid, and resolve them peacefully and amicably.

The participants were told that it was noted that besides men, scores of local women either with their husbands and other relatives or separately had visited different tourist and picnic spots in the Eid holidays in the region, including Ragagan dam, to attend musical concerts and boat rides, which they claimed were against the local customs and traditions ‘based on Islamic principles’.

The speakers further said women visiting the said places for tourism and entertainment was “totally unethical and unacceptable” as, they claimed, there was no room for such activities both in Islam and local traditions, adding that a result-oriented move was vital to discourage such “anti-customs” practices in the region.

The participants, on the occasion, expressed concerns over women’s movement, and sought strict restrictions in this regard. The ban on women from visiting picnic sites was later announced by JUI-F’s Maulana Rasheed, calling it a “joint declaration” of the jirga. He said all the participants approved a complete ban on women’s visits to tourist spots — with or without husbands.

“We want to promote tourism in our areas as it is vital for socioeconomic development of the region. We are only against women visiting such areas as it was in contrast to our customs and traditions. Hence, the jirga banned it,” he announced, adding such activities could not be allowed in the name of tourism.

He further stressed that if the government/district administration failed to take any action in this regard until Sunday (today), the jirga would enforce the ban itself.

According to the Maulana, the jirga had also requested the residents of Salarzai region not to take women in their families to picnic places now. It also asked the local authorities to recruit local residents in various departments in the district instead of outsiders.

There was no word from the district administration, nor was there any indication if the JUI-F-backed jirga decision had been endorsed by other political parties, or if it was indeed “representative” of the tribal council. The party has influence in the tribal district, but social activists said the announcement lacked any legal and constitutional backing.

Source: Dawn