PESHAWAR/BAJAUR: On Saturday, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government warned Bajaur tribesmen that it would take action against them if they refused to lift a local jirga resolution barring women from receiving cash stipends on their own and making telephone calls to local FM radio stations.
On Friday, a jirga in the Warah region of Mamond tehsil barred local women from visiting cash collection centres set up by the World Bank under a cash grant scheme and making phone calls to local FM stations insisting that local customs activities are against them. It has also declared fines for violators of the ban.
In a statement released here, provincial government spokesman Kamran Khan Bangash said there was no provision in the Constitution for jirgas.
He said that the government had asked the divisional commissioner and deputy commissioner of the tribal district of Bajaur to hold talks with tribesmen in order to convince them to revoke their decision, or the law will take action against them.
Says no justification for jirgas after Fata-KP merger
There is no reason left for keeping jirgas after the tribal region’s merger with the province to settle matters. Only the district administration is empowered to take decisions at the level of the tehsil and district, and jirgas have no legality, he added.
Before making certain decisions, Mr. Bangash asked the tribesmen to trust the district administration.
He said the jirga’s decision was against the law and the Constitution and that no jirga was allowed to make women-related decisions of that nature.
The jirga also claimed that every month the visit of women to centres to collect the Child Wellness Grant was against local customs.
Tribal elders had reported that they had repeatedly asked programme managers to either allocate the sum to male members of the related women’s families or to organise, but to no avail, female staff members at centres run under the bank’s Sada-i-Amn programme.
They declared that no women would be permitted to visit the centres on Saturday, and that any tribesman who allowed his female family member to visit the centres would be fined Rs10,000.
The jirga also declared a fine of Rs10, 000 for every woman’s family who called the nearby FM radio stations by telephone.
Bajaur Fayyaz Khan, deputy commissioner, told reporters that the district administration had taken severe note of the ban and firmly condemned it.
He said the ban put on women by elders from attending the cash grant centres of the World Bank and calling local FM radio stations was a matter of great concern to the administration as they were ‘entirely’ against basic human rights.
Elderly decisions are foolish and unconstitutional. Since the unification of the tribal districts with the province and the expansion of the country’s normal judicial structure in the region, no one has the right to prohibit the movement of women in the region.’
Mr. Fayyaz said the decision of the elders was an effort to take the law into their own hands, which would never be permitted by the administration.
He said it was the elders’ spiritual and legal duty to contact the district administration if they had any questions and grievances regarding the cash grant framework process.
Before enforcing a ban on women in a jirga, the deputy commissioner said the elders had not contacted the administration nor lodged complaints about the structure.
He said that, after the integration of tribal districts with the province and the expansion of the judicial system in the country, there was no legal standing for jirga decisions in the region.
Mr. Fayyaz said the government was allowed to bring an end to these decisions because they were against the constitutional rights of people.
He said that today (Sunday) a team of district administration officials led by the additional deputy commissioner will visit the region to convince the elders to revoke their decision.
However, the Deputy Commissioner claimed that if they failed to revoke their actions to take legal action against them, the first knowledge files would be reported against the elderly.
Meanwhile, women’s scorers and rights activists on Saturday blamed the elders of the Bajaur district Mamond tribe for preventing women from visiting the cash distribution centres of the World Bank and calling local radio stations.
They told Dharti News that, since Bajaur was part of the province, which had a proper judiciary system, the elders had no right and power to enforce those restrictions.
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On the one hand, the women and rights activists said that the elders were not worried about thousands of women working in fields away from their homes, but on the other hand, in the name of local rituals and practises, they were stopping vulnerable women from entering the World Bank cash distribution centres.
They said that the women calling FM radio stations had nothing wrong with them.
They called for stern action against the jirga over the ‘shameful and unconstitutional’ decisions against women and appealed to the Peshawar High Court’s chief justice to take a suo moto note of the matter.