Tribal culture in Pakistan & The Victims of Love

From Indus to Thames, world has produced two classes of women’s, one ready to face the challenges of globalization and other still combating with the uncivilized and inhuman surroundings. No matter how rhetorically they (women’s) behave, the social attitude and illicit interference remain the prime concern of plenipotentiaries.

Socially misplaced exhausted under severe mental pressure Shaista Almani’s dire need of financial, social and most importantly moral help forced me to express my views about her dilapidated condition. By looking at her one could easily capture the glimpse of retarded faith in her eyes.

Shaista Almani hailing from the poor class of province Sindh, Pakistan was declared Kari by the Almani tribe had already faced the vicissitudes of life at the early age of 23. The trauma faced by Shaista previously a private school teacher may rather seemed to be a petty issue for developed nations that engaged the electronic and print media, human rights particularly women’s rights organizations inland and abroad along with provincial and federal capital contains the highly uncivilized mentality of the feudal class of Pakistan.

The severe crime committed by Shaista was to marry against the wish of her tribe to Balk Sher Mahar, a person belonging to the opposite rival tribe. Although the Supreme Court has finally decided a 1996 appeal and upheld a 1991 judgment of the Federal Shariat Court which held that a woman who married under her own free will is considered to have done so validly. "The consent of the wali is not required and an adult and sane Muslim female can enter into a valid nikah of her own free will."

Shaista met Balakh Sher alias Qadir Bux Mahar, the Taluka chairman of the local Zakat Committee some time back and developed likeness towards each other. Later, according to conventional style of wedding Qadir Bux’s sent his marriage proposal to her parents, to which her parents initially showing discomfort and later gave a green signal to go ahead.

The couple from Pano Aqil district Sukkur married on June 1, 2003. However, the Almani sardar was not willing to accept this marriage. "I have committed no crime. I just got married according to Islamic injunctions, but my life is in danger," said Shaista "God will help us, we have done nothing wrong." Fearing for their lives, the legally married couple fled up north where friends gave them shelter but tribal predators tracked them down, forcibly brought back legally married couple to Ghotki on October 25 to face a tribal jirga. After severe tribal pressure Mahar divorced Shaista, under jirga (Tribe) verdict, Shaista was declared Kari and faces possible death under jirga law for marrying of her own free will.

History of marrying against the wish of family is not new in Shaista’s family, before her weeding to Balakh Sher, her sister was married to a person hailing from the affluent class of Sindh Jatoi’s but his strong background supported their weeding to continue. In 1970’s Shaista’s father Himat Ali personnel of Irrigation department had also married to Noor Jahan (Shaista’s mother) against the wish of his family and migrated to Pano Aqil.

Ms. Almani’s case takes a new turn when Human rights agencies, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Women’s Action Forum and the Aurat Foundation together intervene & suppress govt. of Sindh by filing a constitutional petition before the Sukkur Bench of the High Court of Sindh to provide channels of security for Shaista putting tribal decision in jeopardy. Plus Shaita’s own efforts to engage high officials for her protection are commendable.

Initially finding no suitable place to live and equally rejected by her tribe Shelter less Shaista’s brother-in-law refused to keep her in his home in Hyderabad. Later on DIGP, Sukkur direction Shaista was sent back to Sukkur but on the insistence of Shasta’s father Himath Ali and Shaista herself, the court ordered to send her to Hyderabad. On IG Police Sindh approval and personal efforts, Shaista & her family was escorted to Karachi under maximum secrecy and security.

A well educated Shaista was teaching at the Mehran College in Pano Aqil, Sukkur district of Sindh, for the past three years before her marriage to Mahar. Narrating her ordeal she said that, “I am a victim of tribal culture exercising in an obstructive fashion.” Unfortunately those who played negative role in this whole scenario were no strangers but her own trusted relatives like her brother-in-law, Mohammad Afzal, who is also Sardar of Almani tribe and the head of the Maher tribe, close relative to chief minister Ali Mohammed Mahar. The ordeal and harassment does not end here, even after forcibly divorced, the tribe is strongly backing to execute their will of killing Shaista declared as Kari.

Tribal chiefs have assigned dozens of armed tribesmen from their area to impose their will against Shaista already divorced. It demands the government take action against the threatening parties. Prominent lawyer and former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jehangir says the federal Shariat Court, a constitutional court authorized to define laws in the light of Islam, had ruled that a guardian’s consent is not required for marriage. "The concept is neither legal nor feasible. It is ridiculous to impose a condition of consultation on a woman of 40 who wants to marry a person of her free will," she remarks.

Shaista admitted at Hilal-i-Ahmar hospital in Karachi for her psychiatrist treatment is recovered now and on her will is brought to the Women’s Police Station but is under constant silhouette of fear, on the other side Balakh sher has obviously accepted the divorce and is living with his relatives in his village. He is no more in the limelight but will remain in the perception of Shaista, a victim of love. After immense pressure on govt. girl has been provided with shelter and jobs one for her and one for her sister Parveen family welfare assistants (BPS 9) by the prominent MNA Imtiaz Ahmad Shaikh and Rahila Tiwana Deputy Speaker of the Sindh Assembly along with some financial assistance on humanitarian grounds. "I have gone through a lot of stress in the past few weeks and am still not feeling totally relaxed and normal. I hope that now that the jobs have been offered, and once I get busy with the daily routine, I would fully recover," said Ms Almani. In lieu of her safety Chief Minister Sindh Ali Mohammed Mahar had ordered the appointment of Shaista as ASI and vow to give her residential facility in the vicinity of Police residential headquarters.

Tribal chiefs have assigned dozens of armed watchdogs (tribesman) from their area to impose their will against Shaista already divorced. It demands the government take action against the threatening parties. Prominent lawyer and former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jehangir says the federal Shariat Court, a constitutional court authorized to define laws in the light of Islam, had ruled that a guardian’s consent is not required for marriage. "The concept is neither legal nor feasible. It is ridiculous to impose a condition of consultation on a woman of 40 who wants to marry a person of her free will," she remarks.

She also requested has for legal advice from Zia Ahmed Awan, President of the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) that is assured by him. However, on the application of Human rights commission and women action Forum, Ms. Almani’s case is transferred from Sukkur bench to Karachi. About her uncertain future she stated "I am uncertain and will remain so until things settle down," she had finally decided not to make up commitment with the infidelity of Balakh Sher whom she trusted and he left her in situation when she badly needed him on her side.

Up till now number of arrest have been made in lieu of her statement and special supervision of president Musharaff, some of the moderate tribes of Sindh had already shown some flexibility in this regard. Currently there are two distinct opinions are prevailing in society, one is of the opinion that this whole episode is hand made story to raise a political disaster for Chief Minister Ali Mohd Mahar brother of Mahar tribe, on the contrary some believes that this case definitely possess some degree of truth and honesty.

After much annoyance made by tribal verdict declaring Ms. Almani’s as dishonor, instigated Sindh’s provincial legislature unanimously passed a resolution condemning honor killing as a ‘brutal tribal tradition’ that had no room in a civilized society. This will ensure that local administration does not come under pressure from tribal chiefs, elected and non-elected politicians and other powerful people to refrain from interfering in cases related to so-called family and tribal honor. "The guidelines set by the Sindh Assembly resolution will help the provincial government come up with an administrative and legal structure able to withstand pressures from within and from outside to ensure justice to those who face tangible threats to their lives from the custodians of regressive traditions," added Asma Jehangir, who is a United Nations reporter on human rights and a former head of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

But now what happens to Shaista? She cannot perpetually live out her life in police protection. The case is a prime example of the ruthless and brutal feudal tradition. This is unpardonable violation of tribal circles, at present more powerful than state laws. What a pity. Shaista’s case revealed the power of the feudal and tribal system. The issue of honor killings and dispensation of rough justice by jirgas (Tribes) has been fobbed off for far too long. Legislation to outlaw such primitive practices must be enacted immediately through consultations with legislators and tribal elders. The government must play a role by not only providing protection to legally consumed marriages but also act as a protagonist to move the country away from mediaeval customs and practices.

It is a matter of a great concern that Jirga (tribal system) is prevailing under the educated bourgeois and influential political heads that enjoy the large mandate of ordinary citizens who obey their wish as their command. But unfortunately after facing more than 5 decades of independence the uncivilized tribal judicial influence is exercised and executed at wide scale. Is it necessary that every time to raise voice against injustices and to uplift the rule of law, girls like Shaista would face mental and political torture to bring the heinous tribal customs in to the lime light? Or for how long the poor help less rural class would sacrifices their love, life and lands in the hands of educated landlords. I am not blaming the entire lobby of landlordism present in the remote areas of Pakistan, but like all the responsible citizens I disagree with the modus operandi that few influential tribes adopt as a modus vivendi approach in partially support of the tribal victims.

There is a dire need at both the private and govt. based sectors to first make an executable unbiased and prudent judicial mechanism to bring expeditious justice to all and spread the mass education particularly rural based education cum awareness to sabotage the injustices made by unlicensed tribal verdicts. The rhetoric environment is essential for our rural masses to carry their personal tasks as long as they are not breaking the rule of law; they can pursue their own will.

The approach of modus vivendi is out of question that could further exasperate society. Therefore, it is high time to execute the optimistic approach to resolve the most annoying issues like social destruction, economic backwardness and political devastation underdeveloped nation struggling to stand on its own feet. If we really want to face or to accept the challenges of globalization, we also mustn’t conceal to confess that no one from outside will come to support us as poet of the east Allam Iqbal wisely said”carve your own path by mean of your own axe, to trade on someone else is hell.” something has to be done in this regard to protect the Pakistani culture, ethics, and centuries old justified traditions along with establishment of Islamic code of conducts.

Besides that rural backward and illiterate is advised to raise their voices against this social injustice, as they are not the alien creatures but the existing part of this universe no matter what color, class and creed they belong to but they possess their basic human rights of life, expression of legal possession and peace at any level and at any cost. In this regard education is must to revive the society. As literacy is the supreme power of eradicating or battled with any injustice.