Efforts to address parallel legal systems
Honor killings fall outside the formal legal framework – Jirga assumes the responsibility to adjudge the perceived crime, establish guilt and execute punishment, not the law or courts. The accused does not have any opportunity to defend her/ himself, and there exists no option of any punishment other than the ultimate punishment of death. Jirgas and Panchayats comprise of male elders in a community for dispute resolution who judge and hand down punishments according to their own socio-cultural construct and gender perceptions. Since the courts have a huge backlog of cases, litigations expensive and access to courts limited, people are left with no option but to resort to Jirgas for quick justice. Women suffer more at the hands of these Jirgas as they rarely have access to other judicial forums.
An attempt to curb incidence of honor killing would remain deficient unless efforts are undertaken to uproot extra-judicial mechanisms like Jirgas and Panchayats, which are the first, and often final, port of call for seeking justice. The Sindh High Court (SHC) ruled in 2004 that Jirgas were illegal. Justice Rehmat Hussain Jaffery pointed out that since Jirgas exercised legislative, judicial and executive authority, they usurped and undermined the power of the State, and were therefore unconstitutional. National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) also lodged a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2011 pointing out that the parallel legal systems violate State laws and deprive the citizens of the opportunity to a fair trial and justice and are as such illegal and inhuman. The petition, which is currently being heard by the Court, asks for individuals engaged in this practice to be punished.
The prime protectors of the jirga system are feudal lords who usually are in positions of political power. This was evidenced in 2010 when after SHC had ruled Jirgas as unconstitutional, PPP Senator Islamuddin Sheikh convened a Jirga at his residence in Sukkur to settle a dispute between the Lakhan and Mirani communities, as also the president of the Sindh chapter of the PML-Q, Ghaus Bakhsh Khan Mahar, who settled a dispute through a Jirga that arose when an FIR was lodged against two individuals for kidnapping a former naib nazim.