A woman in Bahawalpur tried committing suicide along with her three children on Wednesday. She decided to end her life after a panchayat accused her husband of theft and ordered him to pay Rs 600,000 within two days, for allegedly stealing the amount from a landlord. Several people were able to convince her to refrain from taking her life, however, the irony is that a case has been registered against her husband for the suicide attempt.

Despite the presence of the local police, no case was registered against any panchayat member because of their affluent background and the general acceptance of the panchayat system. The reason why it still prevails is because it is believed to offer speedy justice unlike the slow moving judicial system.

No one should be subjected to such a system of justice that does not relay on unchangeable codified laws. Human rights are guaranteed by the state, and the state is complicit in blatant abuse when it allows such systems to service. Panchayats and jirgas end up upholding practices of honour killings, revenge rape, and of siding with the affluent party. More often than not, the system is the most unfair to women. In 2016, a 16-year-old girl from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was ordered to be burnt alive for helping her friend elope.

It is not just tribal elders who are a part of such panchayats and jirgas, but jirgas are also held under the chairmanship of political party leaders, nazims, ministers, and MPAs. This shows how the society has internalised the system and accepts its decisions – like a mob.

In the last couple of years, human rights groups and activists have been calling for the abolishment of an alternate judicial system to no avail. In February 2017, the National Assembly passed the Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill that legalises the parallel judicial system because of its ease of access, and highlights areas that can come under its jurisdiction; mostly financial matters. Just because it is the easy option, does not make it right. The idea of speedy justice can often lead to jirgas giving unimaginable and inhumane punishments. No man, woman or child should have to be subjected to such an unpredictable system of justice, and anyone calling for it is either ignorant or cruel.