IT has been observed that the cacophony of national politics often drowns out the real societal issues of the day. Thanks to the ongoing electoral brouhaha, the reports of a tribal jirga in Bajaur district slapping a complete ban on women visiting tourist spots in the area went relatively unnoticed by both the government and mainstream media. A council of tribal elders in Salarzai tehsil decreed that women cannot visit local tourist or picnic spots, even when accompanied by male family members. While the tribal districts are usually more conservative than the rest of the country, in issuing this ludicrous decree, the Salarzai jirga appears to have gone one step further than even the regressive Afghan Taliban. The obliviousness of state institutions to this `decree` is condemnable; unfortunately, there has been very little effort by most politicians in this country to stop the effective erasure of women from public life in many parts and to hold to account those who deprive them of their fundamental rights. It is a situation that exposes the sheer hypocrisy of those who claim to stand for democracy: the jirga was organised by the local chapter of the JUI-F, one of the coalition members at the centre. The gathering of elders was reportedly attended by a number of party members.
According to the jirga, visiting tourist or picnic spots in the area by women went against local Islamic traditions. Moreover, the council demanded that the local authorities implement their decision by next Sunday, otherwise, they would do so themselves. Considering how the tribal region has been wracked by religious extremism and militancy, do we really need to point out how perilous this trend would be if lef t unaddressed? In an environment where women struggle to be educated and to vote, such an order by a parallel justice system is a mockery of the state`s writ, besides being a direct assault on the marginalised women of the area. The government needs to put a stop to this before others are inspired to follow suit.