Jirga in Pak north bans women from local picnic, tourist spots

ISLAMABAD: Women avoided visiting picnic spots alone, even with their male relatives, in Bajaur tribal region on Sunday after a local “jirga” (meeting of tribal elders) of the Salarzai and Khar tehsils of the volatile district imposed a ban on entry of females into public places.
This comes 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.
The hilly terrain of Bajaur, next to Pakistan’s Dir hill-station in the north and at a high elevation to the east of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, has a number of tourist spots where locals, including families, frequently visit on Sundays for recreation and entertainment.
According to locals, the turnout of women at scenic spots, like Gabar “Cheena” (spring), Bhai Cheena, Munda Qilla, Ragagan Dam, and Aman Park was negligible on Sunday.
The all-male jirga, which was held at the hilly Danqool valley on Saturday, announced a complete ban on women’s visits to tourist and picnic spots with or without their husbands.
The jirga was organized by a local chapter of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), one of the key members of the ruling coalition government.
Scores of elders and religious figures from various tribes of the Salarzai and Khar tehsils also attended the gathering. The jirga was called after district leadership of the rightwing JUI-F raised concerns over what they called “unethical” activities in the name of entertainment at Ragagan Dam.
According to jirga participants, they were told that besides men, scores of local women, either with their husbands and other relatives or separately, had visited different tourist and picnic spots during the Eid holidays in the region to attend musical concerts and boat rides, which they claimed was against the local customs and traditions “based on Islamic principles”.
“Visit of women to such places and their entertainment in the name of tourism is totally unethical and unacceptable. There is no room for such activities, both in Islam and local traditions. A result-oriented effort is vital to discourage such practices which are against the local customs and traditions,” jirga members concluded, while announcing the ban.
The tribal council also warned that if the government does not enforce the jirga’s decision by Sunday (July 17), then local tribes would take it upon themselves to implement the decision.

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