A tribal council in Pakistan bans women from visiting tourist sites

A tribal council in Pakistan has banned women from visiting public places for tourism and entertainment, calling it “unethical” and contrary to Islamic principles.

The all-male jirga (tribal council), made up of former locals of the ultra-conservative Salarzai tehsil in the Bajaur tribal district, announced on Saturday that if the government did not implement the decision by Sunday, the jirga members would take it upon themselves to impose it. dawn news reported.

The jirga was organized by the local branch 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 and in the region.

Along with dozens of elders from various tribes and regions of the Salarzai tehsil, a number of JUI-F leaders and religious figures from the region also attended the rally, which was held after leaders of the JUI-F district raised concerns at their press conference on Thursday about 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 supposed to discuss several issues of the region that have emerged during Eid, and resolve them peacefully and amicably.

Attendees were informed that it was noted that in addition to the men, dozens of local women, either with their husbands and other relatives or separately, had visited different tourist and picnic spots during the holiday. of Eid in the area to attend music concerts and boat rides, which they claimed. were contrary to local customs and traditions “based on Islamic principles”.

The speakers further stated that women visiting the said places for tourism and entertainment were “totally unethical and unacceptable” as, in their view, there was no place for such activities both in Islam and in local traditions.

Participants at the meeting expressed concerns about the women’s movement and called for strict restrictions in this regard. The ban on women going to picnic sites was later announced by JUI-F’s Maulana Rasheed, calling it a “joint statement” from the jirga.

He said all participants endorsed a complete ban on women’s visits to tourist sites – with or without a husband.

“We want to promote tourism in our territories because it is vital for the socio-economic development of the region. We are only against women visiting such areas as it was against our customs and traditions. Therefore, the jirga banned it,” he said, adding that such activities could not be allowed in the name of tourism.

He further pointed out that if the government/district administration does not take any action in this regard before Sunday, the jirga will enforce the ban itself.

There was no word from the district administration, nor any indication whether the JUI-F-backed jirga’s decision had been endorsed by other political parties, or whether it was indeed “representative” of the council. tribal.

The party has influence in the tribal district, but social activists said the announcement lacked any legal and constitutional basis.

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