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Wednesday Jul 26 2017

Panchayats have no standing, legal or otherwise: Asma Jahangir


ISLAMABAD: Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and rights activist Asma Jahangir on Wednesday said panchayat (village council)have no standing, legal or otherwise, and should be prosecuted if they act out the ambit of law. 

Jahangir's remarks follow reports that a panchayat (village council) in Multan allegedly ordered ‘revenge rape’ of a 16-year-old girl.

"Panchayats have no standing and the courts have stated the same. If they act outside of law, then the panchayat and its members should be prosecuted according to law." 

The rights activist added that emergence of such cases after every few years unfortunately means that the judicial system is weak. 

"It pains me to say it, but our judicial system is so weak that those who appear in front of it, even if they are witnesses, either get paid off or are forced to reach a compromise and it spoils the case."

In order to improve the state of affairs, Jahangir suggested that the state should become the complainant in such cases and pursuit of the case should not be left to the complainant.

"There should be witness protection. It is a crime to harass, threaten or pay off witnesses. Unfortunately, no one has been punished on these grounds till now," said Jahangir. 

Terming the punishments handed out by panchayats as barbaric, the right activist said such practices have continued unabated for years.

"Most of the cases of this nature emerge from central Punjab. Either the region has a tradition for such practices, or the people are not prosecuted by law or the local police is complicit."

Jahangir commended the media for shedding light on such cases and said if the media did not pick up on such stories, the voices of those effected would never be heard.