“Tribal Laws vs. State Laws: The SouthWaziristan Dilemma”


When Pakistan decided to merge its tribalareas with the rest of the country’sadministrative framework, it was seen as apositive move. People believed that thismerger would finally put an end to theoutdated Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), alaw that had long been criticized for its lackof accountability and disregard for humanrights. The hope was that after the merger,people in these areas would have access tothe same legal system as the rest of thecountry.However, as time passed, it became clearthat the situation was not as straightforwardas expected. While the FCR was officiallyabolished in 2018, it seemed that tribaljustice systems still held significant sway.In South Waziristan, a troubling storyemerged that challenged the idea that theFCR was a thing of the past. This storycentered around Maaraj Khalid Wazir, aprominent figure in the region who dared tospeak out against the decisions of a newlyformed tribal council, known as a Jirga,comprising 120 influential members.About three to four months ago, this Jirgabegan imposing penalties on those whocriticized its decisions, and Maaraj KhalidWazir found himself in their crosshairs. Whatwas most alarming was that the Jirga didn’tstop at penalizing Maaraj alone; theyextended their reach to his entire family.Refusing to pay these penalties meant facingserious consequences.What’s important to understand is that thisisn’t an isolated incident. The Jirga hasimposed penalties on other communityleaders as well, raising concerns about therule of law and the role of tribal justicesystems.While tribal Jirgas have traditionally played avital role in resolving local disputes, itbecomes problematic when they startimposing penalties, a function that shouldbelong to the formal legal system, not tribalcouncils.Legal experts argue that upholding the ruleof law is crucial, and penalties should only beenforced through lawful channels. But inSouth Waziristan and similar regions, tribalcustoms continue to challenge the authorityof the state.The situation in South Waziristan reminds usthat tribal justice systems in Pakistan are stillvery much in operation. Although the FCRmay have been officially scrapped, thesecouncils continue to exert their influence.The story of Maaraj Khalid Wazir serves as areminder that traditional customs cansometimes clash with the rule of law. It’s acomplex situation that authorities need tonavigate carefully while upholding justice andthe rule of law.So, as we reflect on these challenges, itraises important questions: Were we tooquick to celebrate the end of the FCR? Didwe overlook the resilience of tribal customsand councils? And what can be done toensure that justice and the rule of law prevailin these regions?It’s crucial to address these questions andfind solutions that strike a balance betweenrespecting traditions and upholding theprinciples of justice. The story of SouthWaziristan serves as a sobering reminderthat the path to change is not alwaysstraightforward, but it’s a journey that mustcontinue, guided by a commitment to justiceand human rights.


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