Using Jirga as a conflict prevention tool in Pakistan2 March 2012
PATA is one of the most conflict-affected areas in the country where a lack of access to timely and impartial justice is one of the leading drivers of conflict in the region. Jirga, a traditional gathering of elders that resolves grievances by consensus, can play an important role in conflict transformation and resolution in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. This is a key conclusion of a new study published by Saferworld and Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP).
The study presents local perspectives on the Jirga system, the challenges it brings and areas for improvement, such as including marginalised and vulnerable groups in a manner and timeframe that is acceptable to local people. It concludes that a more representative and inclusive Jirga system would improve access to justice for all members of society and reduce local tensions and conflicts in PATA.
“The Jirga is the best alternative [to formal justice]. It is comparatively successful because of the people’s traditional attachment with it and love for it. The court system is very costly for them financially and in terms of time.”
Male community leader, Swat
The research also concludes that Pakistan should strengthen the links between formal and informal mechanisms for justice and clarify the status and potential of Jirga to complement the judicial system.
These changes are important if the Jirga is to help prevent militant groups from advocating alternative forms of justice, such as the Taliban’s imposition of their version of Sharia courts in PATA in 2008. Donors seeking to help reduce conflict in the region should enhance their understanding of Jirga and support its use in contributing to reduced levels of militancy in PATA.
The research findings are drawn from consultations with local communities in Swat and Lower Dir districts as well as a range of Pakistani and international actors who have experience of the Jirga system. The findings were presented at an event in Islamabad on 21 February 2012. Speakers included the Deputy Head of European Commission’s Delegation in Islamabad, Mr Pierre Mayaudon, Chief Executive of CAMP, Mr Naveed Shinwari and the Director of Human Rights and Law Ministry/Government of Pakistan, Mr Syed Khizar Hayat Shah. There was a lively question and answer session where participants discussed links between formal and informal justice systems and the legitimacy of Jirga based on their approach to inclusivity, human rights and women's participation.
This research is part of the EU-funded ‘People’s Peacemaking Perspectives’ project, a joint initiative implemented by Conciliation Resources and Saferworld and financed under the European Commission's Instrument for Stability. The project provides European Union institutions with analysis and recommendations based on the opinions and experiences of local people in a range of countries and regions affected by fragility and violent conflict.
“The Jirga is the best alternative [to formal justice]. It is comparatively successful because of the people’s traditional attachment with it and love for it. The court system is very costly for them financially and in terms of time”Male community leader, Swat, Pakistan