Pakhtun Woman (A Female Homo-Sacer)


Our protest and tribute to khor Zahida Bibi and many lost souls sacrificed on the altar of customary practices in Pakhtunkhwa. 

Homo sacer is a paradoxical figure, it is the one who may not be sacrificed, yet may be murdered with impunity. In this sense, the homo sacer is outside or beyond both divine and human law. Pakhtun woman is a female homo-sacer, she is made custodian of man’s honour, thus outside or beyond both divine and human law. In tribal areas, she can be killed with impunity, stating that he was protecting his honour. In settled parts she is murdered, saving family’s honour, later the honourable man is pardoned by the family and society. 
Pakhtunwali comprises several obligations and duties based mostly on man’s Ghairat/Nang (honour) and includes Nanawatey (remorse over past hostility or hostile attitude and asking for pardon; in certain cases, women are offered in dispute settlement), Panah (grant of asylum and refugee), Teega or a truce (temporary cessation of hostilities declared by a Jirga to avoid further bloodshed between two rival factions), Badal (can be revenge/also return of kindness), Melmastiya and Khaigarah (ironically this hospitality and goodness is also practiced with the help of women folk in the preparation of meals being offered to guests). These actions are celebrated as the noblest actions. Honour, in Pakhtunwali, is the core for almost every matter and is more inclusive in the case of a woman; she is a man’s Nang and Ghairat and he can resort to (dis)honour killings in defiance if she by any action challenges his honour. Second to that is a concern for land and property encompassing only a man’s right to defend his property. In terms of economic concerns, border areas’ properties are mostly unrecorded and jointly owned by tribes (read men only) living in these areas known as Shamilaat (combined property owned by a tribe and its income shared by men only). Later in 1920s, British in NWFP (today’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), introduced Sharia and revenue record structure that led to transformation of property inheritance rights but even today Pakhtun women are deprived of the property by the families on certain grounds. In FATA, the old Shamilaat system is in vogue and tribal women comprise 60% of the work force do chores such as collecting wood, bringing water, taking care of livestock and working in fields but remain deprived of owning property rights under Riwaj. As mentioned earlier, only men inherit this combined property and it is divided among the males of the families and tribes according to the traditional setup of Wesh (distribution among tribesmen only). Cousin-rivalry among men (Tarboorwali) is also a common phenomenon in the tribal belt, due to scarce resources, hence; they fight most of the times over shared lands, then end up developing enmity with each other and adversely affecting women, in case men of the family die. Inheritance law is regulated under Riwaj/Dastoor with the combination of Islamic law, in which only males inherit and females are completely ignored, and in certain cases minors and children are not awarded any property on the death of their father if the grandfather is alive. Also, if a family has no male members, then females of such families are deprived of their forefathers’ property and land, and such property and other riches are distributed among other men of the family (cousins, distant cousins) or tribesmen under a common customary practice called Miratah (one without a male member). Marriages are solemnized according to Muslim Law (marriage process of Muslims), but bride price is paid according to the custom prevalent in that area. Bride price is decided according to the status of a woman, i.e. virgin, widow, or divorcee; in certain cases of eloped women, bride price is prescribed by the Riwaj/Dastoor of that area. Most of the time, families prefer inter-marriage or cousin marriage under the exchange of bride-for- bride arrangement. If for some reason, a girl’s family refuses a proposal or a man’s family is unable to pay the bride price, then the family or aspiring man desiring to be married goes and fires shots in front of the girl’s house, a custom to mark the territory of matrimonial interest without the consent of the family and girl, declaring her his property. In such cases either the family agrees, or if it fails to do so, then the girl remains unmarried due to the taboo called Ghag (masculine roar). Also, in many cases a marriage is used as a truce pact between two warring families or tribes, the girl is given in Swara (exchanged for murder) against her consent to settle the enmity. In certain cases, widowed women are forced to marry a deceased husband’s brother, and in a few situations young boys are forced to marry their widowed sisters- in- law or cousins older to them.  All such practices have prevailed in Pakhtun areas and specifically order devoid militarised FATA since time immemorial and no one has objected or tried to stop them. These practices are justified under the pretext that our customs protect and cherish woman: she is not burdened with property, nor bothered with employment, and the family looks after her needs. The normal argument in support of these customary laws by the state is that these traditions are a part of Pakhtun culture where a woman is more protected than women living in urban areas. To justify injustices, shallow arguments are produced stating that in urban areas a woman has too many pressures, whereas a woman has no socio-economic pressures in the Pakhtun families and tribal areas. In the process of saving family’s honour, she experiences worst kinds of violence, some of it is structured while some is unstructured violence, falling into physical, sexual and psychological cruelty. Domestic violence is classified as physical or psychological. Physical assault and woman beating is a common phenomenon of Pakhtun culture; eight out of ten women and children are victims of this cruelty. According to surveys, conducted in various agencies, wife beating is a norm; neither the traditional mechanism nor the state apparatus recognizes it. Even in severe forms of torture by husbands, fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, male cousins and in some cases fathers-in-law and brothers-in-law, there is no law to protect women. And even in settled areas, some relief is given even that is not reported due to question of honour. Women are stopped from reporting while black mailing them with the family’s honour excuses. 

Some of Pakhtun women legislators, academicians, activists and philanthropists expresses their views on domestic violence.

Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, a member of the K-P Commission on the Status of Women, critiquing the 30th amendment and Riwaj Act, stated “Patriarchy is evident in our state’s structure, they did not even involve a single woman while deciding all the laws as though they (women) did not exist”. Expressing her displeasure on inability of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Provincial Assembly and connecting it to violence against women in Pakhtun belt, “they could not even pass the law for domestic violence, [having women-protection laws] in Fata is a distant dream,”. 

Bushra Gohar, legislator, Vice President Awami National Party and activist, “Fata has always been treated as a strategic space where people have been denied their political rights for 70 years. Deprived of basic education and healthcare, women have suffered the most from this neglect. Dowry is legal, property is denied to women when it involves shared lands and a woman is considered her family’s honour — to be bought, sold, bartered and killed”.

Nausheen Jamal from Orakzai Agency, President Qabailee Khor expresses her anguish in Urdu saying

‎میں کل سے صرف رواجوں پر سوچ رہی ہوں کے ان سارے رواجوں میں کو ئی تو ایسا رواج ہو گا جو کے عورتوں کے حق میں ہو گا لیکن کسی نہ کسی پہلو میں وہ مجھے عورتوں کے خلاف ہی لگا اور کل سے مجھے ایک اور بات بھی محسوس ہو رہی ہے کہ جس پختون معاشرے میں ہم رہتے ہیں.یہاں کا مرد بظاہر جو بہت بہادر اور نڈر لگتا ہے.اصل میں تو وہ بہت خوفزدہ،ڈرا اور بزدل ہے.کیونکہ اس کو تو اپنا کیا ہوا ہر غلط فیصلہ بھی عورت کے دم پر ہی حل کرنا ہے یہ بہادر قتل خود کرے گا لیکن اس غیرت مند کو پھر توفیق نہیں ہوگی کہ اپنی سزا بھگتے.اور نہ ہی جرگے کہ غیرتمند یہ کہیےگے کہ اپنے ایک بیٹے کو سوارے میں دے دو کیونکے تم نے اس کے بیٹے کو مارا ہے اور بیٹے کے بدلے بیٹا یہ بزدل اس ٹائم گھر کی وہ بیٹی جو ویسے بھی ان کا گھر میں مچا یا ہوا سارا گند صاف کرتی ہے. اس بےغیرت کے باہر کے مچاے گند پر قربان کر دی جاتی ہے.اور پھر اس کی خیر خبر بھی لینا حرام ہو جاتا ہے.ویسے ہم انسانیت کی صف سے شائد باہر ہی ہیں.پھر ہمارے ہا ں فاٹامیں مرد اپس میں لڑائی میں جب کسی کا قتل کر دیتے ہیں تو گھر اکر اپنی بیوی کو مار دیتے ہیں.کہ ان کا اپس میں تعلق تھا. سادگی سے سارا مسلہ ختم. اف اکثر ان کی شادی بہت ہی کم عمر میں کر دی جاتی ہے.کہ بدلے میں بھائی کی شادی کروا دیتے ہیں یا لڑکے کی ماں کو کام کہ لیے لڑکی کی ضرورت ہے اور وہ ساس کے ساتھ ہی سوے گی اور اکثر تو اس کو بیچا ہی جاتا ہے.کیونکے اس کو بیچ کر بیٹے کی شادی کا خرچ نکالنا ہے. اور واہ ری قسمت پھر بھی اس کی پیدائش پر ہاے ہی ہوتا ہے.اور اب تو ایک نئی اور مہلک چیز ہمارے لیے جس کو.ہم.ہضم نہیں کر پا رہے موبائل اور وہ بھی سما رٹ فون ہم نے اس پر خاص بات نہیں کی ہے.پہلے تو اس پر پیغا مات اتے تو عورت بد کردار تھی اب بہت سے علاقوں میں موبائل نیٹ ورک کام کر رہا ہے.فا ٹا میں. وہاں عورتوں کو چشموں سے پانی.بھی لانا ہے. اور لکڑ یاں بھی لانی ہیں.اور کھیتوں میں بھی کام کرنا ہے.اور گھر سے کہا جاتا ہے.اگر مو بائل میں کسی نے تصویر لے لی تو تمہا ری جگہ گھر میں نہیں قبر میں ہو گی اس سے وہ دور ذیادہ اچھا لگتا ہے جب ان کو پیدا کرتے ہی مار دیا جاتا.اسلام کے ان شیدایوں سے اگر جائیداد کے حصے کی بات کرو تو جواب اتا یے کہ ہماری بہنیں بیٹیاں اتنی بے شرم نہیں.اور اگر یہ حصے لے لیں گی.تو باپ کے گھر کس منہ سے ائیں گی.اسلام تو بیوی کو الگ گھر کا حکم بھی دیتا ہے.اور کہیں نہیں کہا کہ عورتوں کو روٹی تب ہی ملے گی. جب وہ سا رے گھر کا کام کر لے.کیا کہو ں جہاں اس معاشرے کو عورت کے مخالف کہیں مذہب لگا وہاں وہ استعمال.کیا ورنہ رواج تو کہیں گیا ہی نہیں.وہ تو بنا یا ہی عورتوں کے دبانے کے لیے

Sakina Bibi from Mohmand Agency, political worker, an activist and Qabailee Khor General Secretary says “Women risk punishment, even death, if the honour of the clan is violated and this brutal killings can stop if a legal system that replicates the [country’s] judicial mechanism”. 

Shahida Shah Kakakhel, co-founder and General Secretary KHOR recorded her protest against such atrocities by raising certain questions; Violence against Women exist everywhere in the world, but my Pashtun women are the worst victims due to patriarchy, poverty and prolonged conflict, which made my Pashtun sisters as IDPs especially in FATA and increased their hardships manifold. Moreover, Riwaaj added to their miseries, she suffers and endure violent practices such as honor killing, forced marriage (Swara”, Badal, Ghag), bride selling (Walwar). In rest of Pakistan and the world, violence against woman is crime but in our lawless FATA this violence is honored as “Riwaaj”. Why? If “Riwaaj” is a good system then why its not applied on women in rest of Pakistan and world?. Why only women of F.A.T.A? Do tribal women belong to Pakistan or this world? Or are they Aliens? Now its time to answer these Qs.

Kiran Sajid, clinical psychologist from Mohmand Agency and a member of Qabailee Khor summed up the violence against women stating “Why Pakhto Riwaaj is violent towards and against women? The answer is to suppress the strong (women) so that the weak (men) feels in power.

Afshan Afridi from Khyber Agency, activists and member of Qabailee Khor, shares her view that “Riwaj act is against humanity, in Pashtoon culture where in some families they are keeping their females as a queen where they are also living as a slaves, in FATA they dont have shares in heritage according to them its not in Pashtoon culture, there are many things in which pashtoon women are sacrificing just for the so called culture, if our state is very in favour of riwaj act then they should implement it in all Pakistan, we suffered alot we want human rights, dont impose riwaj act on us”. 

Zohra Syed from North Waziristan, a student and member of Qabailee Khor recorded her views with disdain, “Riwaj is not against the tribal women social rights, denied by the state system in FATA but also take her political rights given by the state, however no permission to her to go out and vote”. 

Nadia Khan Yousafzai, an expat Pakhtun activist from Swat, PATA, shares her views “Pakhto Rewaj is a chain that Pakhtun woman is tied with from her body and soul. She is controlled through this chain by her father/brothers when she’s single and her duties are to protect the men’s honor, clean and cook well. Her father then gives her away and now she is controlled by her husband. Her duties increase, now along with the other duties, she has to also give her body to the new owner to fulfill his sexual desires and make sons whether she wants it or not”.

Azra Nafees Yousafzai, an academician, founding member of KHOR and activist from PATA, states that “The proposed Riwaj Act is nothing but a more heinous form of the draconian FCR and instead of bringing some relief to the already victimised women of FATA, it will legitimize many detestable crimes related to women such as swara, ghag, walwar and honour killings. It treats woman as a tool for dispute settlement. In certain cases, it allows to hand over a woman of one family to another as compensation for life losses or even physical injuries. The Rewaj is repugnant to the Constitution as well as Qura’an and Sunnah, yet the proposed reforms retain it rather codifying it by disguising these as reforms”.

Fatima Batool from Kurram Agency, a student, research scholar and a member of Qabailee Khor says “according to traditions women is invisible, domestic needs fulfiller and kept within walls. According to constt she is a full fledged human, a brain , an idea, a contributor. Only sound mind can figure this out. Proper access to education, vocational trainings and information for a tribal woman is the need of time. Riwaj act approves the slaying of women in the name of many absurd traditions”. 

Nazish Begum, an activist from South Waziristan and member Qabailee Khor says “Riwaj is cruelty and we want an end to it, I am a Pakistani and want 1973 Constitution for myself”. 

Shaheena Bibi a student from Bajaur Agency described Riwaj as “main hurdle to girl’s education, she said I am fortunate enough that my family support me otherwise girls are are married off young and are not allowed to study in our area due to our cultural practices”. 

Mona Naseer Aurangzeb, a human rights activist, philanthropist and co-founder KHOR analysed Riwaj as “traditions in Pashtun society hampers women growth mobility and progress. Whether it’s the strict segregation of sexes or her pardah (chastity ). All has been used against her . The segregation of sexes and pardah has been used to stop her education, her earning capacity to be in public life and gaining her financial independence. These norms under the garb of so called tested and static traditions has only harmed and kept her a prisoner in a vicious circle of poverty. Dependability and violence against her. They need to be criticised and condemned by all progressive men and women. 

Samreena Khan Wazir from South Waziristan, activist and President FATA Student Organization Women Wing discusses indifference of state towards tribal women,”Fata ko jehan tareekh mein aman ka gehwara samjha jata hai us naam nehad aman mk zamany mein fata k awam or khasoosan khwateen huqooq se mehroom thy lehaza us zamany ko aman ka zamana qatan nahi kaha ja sakta. Aj tawaeel dar badri or halaat, riyast or riwaj k hathon tazleel k baad jub hum ne huqooq ko samjha or mangna shuru kiya to mazi se sabaq seekhy baghair riyast aj phir hum per riwaj act thop rahi jo fcr ka dusra naam hai or khwateen ko mazeed ruswa karny or un per mazeed zulm dhany ka tariqa kaar le kar aya hai.mukhtalif agencies mein Halya waqyat se andaza lagaya ja sakta hai k hum khwateen is riyast mein, is riwaj k neechy kitni mehfooz hein? Halya chand waqyat to logo k notice mein aye lekin inhi chand mahino mein janoobi waziristan agency smait agensyo mein aesy waqyat sunany ko mily jehan khwateen ko nam nehad ghairat k naam per zabah kiya gaya lekin sub muashra is zulm per khamosh hai or waqyat ki tasdeeq karny ko tayar nahi hai, riyast hamesha ki tarha chup sadhy tamasha dhaikh rahi hai. Bal kh inhi khwateen ka mazeed istihsal karney riwaj act ko samny la rahi hai”. 

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