Pakistan: Tribal clashes over Maher and Almani marriage

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan fact finding mission.
An HRCP fact-finding team visited Ghotki to investigate last week’s clashes between the Maher and Almani tribes. Below is a brief list of the team’s findings and recommendations.
WLUML adds, "The report below by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan illustrates the interconnections between failing state structures and women's rights in marriage. The HRCP conducted a fact-finding mission to Ghotki (in Pakistan's Sindhprovince) where several people had been killed in clashes between two tribes, ostensibly over the 'love marriage' of Shaista Almani and Balkh Sher Maher. The report also reveals how a tussle for local power between the men of two tribes can be taken out on women: one young woman was denied choice in marriage despite the legal system upholding her right, while several women were abducted as part of the feud."


· Five people were killed in last week’s armed clashes between Mahers and Almanis in Ghotki.

· The seven women abducted were returned unharmed.

· Such incidents affect the livelihood of local people and they are suffering due to lack of income.

· People of the area are scared and feel insecure, particularly the women.

· Several hundreds of Almani tribesmen have migrated to other parts of the country. If the situation worsens, the remaining Almani clan will also start moving out.

· The Ghotki area is firmly in the grip of the sardars [local feudal leaders]. The administration, law enforcement agencies, political and social workers, journalists and civil society organizations are dependent on the will of the sardars. The prevalent mindset is damaging national unity and cohesion. · The police as well as the people are looking to the sardars for a solution to the current situation. The police and the administration depend on the advice and decisions of the sardars, thus reducing the credibility of the judicial system.

· Khuda Bux Almani, along with other members of the jirga [tribal council, not recognised by the state as a legal decision-making body] that gave a decision against Shaista Almani and Balaksher Maher, has not accepted the decision of the Sindh High Court regarding the marriage of the couple. Khuda Bux Almani and his accomplices are encouraging people to reject the decision of the Sindh High Court.

· The administration and the police have not taken notice of Justice Rehmat Hussain Jaffrey’s decision declaring jirgas illegal and unconstitutional. The administrators, who are supposed to implement the court’s decision in letter and in spirit, have not even read the statement.

· A Maher sardar heading the provincial government has led to further deterioration in the police system. The police officials have become more loyal to the Maher sardars and want to keep the jirga system alive.

· The recent clashes in Ghotki were the result of power tussles for political gain between sardars. The marriage of Shaista and Balaksher may have aggravated the tensions between the tribes but last week’s clashes were not a direct result of the marriage.

· Khuda Baksh Almani is further aggravating the situation. He is acting alone and does not have the consent of the Almani tribe.

· Last week’s incidents represent a struggle to maintain stranglehold of the sardars and the jirga system


· The area of upper Sindh and Ghotki is a state within a state. Civil society organizations and democratic political parties need to be strengthened to counter the prevalent power structures.

· Our judicial system has lost credibility in the eyes of the common people due to inefficiency of the courts and corruption within the legal system. People turn to jirgas for lack of a better alternative. Practical steps are necessary to end the jirga system.

· Political parties can play an important role, particularly by supporting the Sindh High Court’s decision against jirgas. Civil society organizations should insist that political parties fulfill their duties. Workshops and seminars can be arranged to train political workers in these issues.

· Print and electronic media has played a commendable role in creating awareness about this issue. Particularly, the role of the Sindhi press in campaigning against honour killing and the jirga system must be appreciated.

Latest news reports indicate that a jirga will be held to settle the dispute between the Maher and Almani tribes under patronage of the local police. A meeting at the office of the DPO Ghotki decided to approach the government and ask for relaxation of the ban on jirgas announced by the Sindh High Court.

Nadia Haroon
Program Coordinator HRCP