The incident in Loralai district of Balochistan involving the stoning of a couple accused of maintaining an ‘illicit relationship,’ highlights that a parallel justice system is intact, running and sustained by convention. Key democratic institutions have kept away under the guise of respecting tribal cultures, proving once more that though democracy and the independent judiciary may have borne some fruits for the inhabitants of urban centers, life outside of these areas remains harsh. As we blame these barbaric belief systems, the state must also be held to account for allowing these cycles to continue unabated. Tolerance for tribal values and cultures cannot be allowed to supersede basic human rights, and accountability must be ensured.

The fact that the local administration took notice of the incident only after it made headlines, suggests two things: Either the local administration is incompetent and oblivious to what goes on under its jurisdiction, or it is complicit. Both scenarios are perhaps equally alarming.

Change will come gradually, as it did in other parts of the world with similar problems. So far, the state has failed to provide them with an escape from the old system. Why would they follow liberal ideals as we wish them to when they know nothing about them? Also, considerable attention needs to be paid to the matter of development and economic empowerment. Poverty has historically provided a breeding ground for inhumane laws and traditions. Poor and neglected, they don’t feel the need to redefine their way of life in accordance with the rest of the country or the wider world.

Once part of mainstream society, these very tribes will begin to reconsider dominant tradition with respect to law enforcing institutions. Some will resist, others will adapt. Unfortunately, by repeatedly turning a blind eye, neither the state nor society are yet to present them with this choice.