Islamabad: A tribal council in Pakistan has barred women from visiting public places for tourism and entertainment, terming it “unethical” and against the Islamic principles.
The all-male jirga (tribal council) of local elders of ultra-conservative Salarzai tehsil in Bajaur tribal district on Saturday announced that if the government did not implement the decision by Sunday, the jirga members would take it upon themselves to impose it, the Dawn News reported.
The jirga was organised by the local chapter of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, which is also one of the main members of the ruling coalition.
The move comes just 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 as well as the region.
Besides scores of elders from various tribes and areas of the Salarzai tehsil, a number of JUI-F leaders and religious figures of the region also attended the gathering, held after the JUI-F district leadership raised concerns during their presser on Thursday over what they called “unethical” activities in the name of entertainment.
Addressing the gathering on Saturday, JUI-F district chief Maulana Abdur Rasheed, who also belonged to the Salarzai region, and other speakers pointed out that the jirga was meant to discuss several issues of the region that emerged during Eid, and resolve them peacefully and amicably.
The participants were told that it was noted 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 were against the local customs and traditions “based on Islamic principles”.
The speakers further said women visiting the said places for tourism and entertainment was totally unethical and unacceptable as, they claimed, there was no room for such activities both in Islam and local traditions.
The participants in the meeting expressed concerns over women’s movement, and sought strict restrictions in this regard. The ban on women from visiting picnic sites was later announced by JUI-F’s Maulana Rasheed, calling it a joint declaration of the jirga.
He said all the participants approved a complete ban on women’s visits to tourist spots — with or without husbands.
“We want to promote tourism in our areas as it is vital for socioeconomic development of the region. We are only against women visiting such areas as it was in contrast to our customs and traditions. Hence, the jirga banned it,” he announced, adding such activities could not be allowed in the name of tourism.
He further stressed that if the government/district administration failed to take any action in this regard until Sunday, the jirga would enforce the ban itself.
There was no word from the district administration, nor was there any indication if the JUI-F-backed jirga decision had been endorsed by other political parties, or if it was indeed representative of the tribal council.
The party has influence in the tribal district, but social activists said the announcement lacked any legal and constitutional backing.