PESHAWAR/LANDI KOTAL: Eid Bibi was sixty years old when she was shot dead in Fata’s Kurram Agency by her nephew—for having an affair.
The truth is that her nephew killed her as he was after her property. Her father had given her a share and her nephew was demanding she put it in his name. She resisted.
“[He] spent four years behind bars and when he was released he had the land transferred to his name,” said one of his relatives, who did not want to be named. He got what he wanted in the end.
In Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the rule is that women cannot inherit property. This disenfranchises its population of approximately 2.4 million women.
“There are no land records either in Fata and land is distributed verbally and under Riwaj,” explains Sakina Rahman, who lives in Mohmand Agency. Even when a man inherits land, it is done verbally.
“Whether the property in question is that of her father’s or her husband’s, a woman can neither claim nor go to court or a jirga to get it,” explains Fazal Shah Mohmand, an advocate with the Supreme Court.
As Fata was governed by the British-era Frontier Crimes Regulation law, it never had courts to begin with. It did not have a regular police either.
This means that if you had a dispute you had to either take it to a jirga of men or the political administration. This was not possible for women. Women couldn’t go seeking justice with the Fata Tribunal either because of deep-rooted customs.
“There is no riwaj in the area where a woman has been given her share in her parents’ property,” says Islam Bibi, who has four daughters and lives in Landi Kotal. She is now worried about their financial futures and especially for one daughter who was born with special needs. Her brothers-in-law do not want her to get a share of her husband’s property. Her children cannot stand up to their uncles.
This means that even if a man wants to bequeath or gift property to a woman in his family, he cannot. “He would be held responsible for setting this precedent and they would make his life a living hell,” says Islam bibi’s nephew Israr Ahmad Shinwari.
The good news is, however, that the government is working on mainstreaming Fata and this means abolishing the FCR. In April this year, it decided to work on extending the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to Fata.
“The only ray of hope is Fata reforms and the extension of the apex court’s jurisdiction,” says Shumail Ahmad Butt, a senior lawyer with the Peshawar High Court. It is then that women will at least be able to file petitions to fight for their inheritance.