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Abstracts

Gender

Panel 1: Whose Right to Land?

Land Ownership and Pukhtun Women in Tribal Area (FATA) and NWFP

by Samina Afridi*

This paper attempts to find an association between the absence of federal and provincial laws in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Pakistan and denial of land ownership rights to women. It discusses various forms of collective and individual land ownership keeping in view features of Pukhtun culture affecting the status of women. It shall also compare land ownership of Pukhtun women in NWFP where the law allows women to inherit and own property with the absence of landownership of women in tribal areas.

The paper will be based on empirical data collected from two agencies of FATA, namely Kurram (having documented record) and Khyber (having only oral record) and Charsada, a settled district of NWFP. The underlying hypothesis is that the denial of landownership rights to women is adversely affecting their status in FATA.

FATA comprises seven agencies and six Frontier Regions lying between the north-western Himalyan zone and the south-western chain of the Sulaiman Mountains. The population of FATA is approximately 3.5 million, nearly half of them women. FATA is given a so-called special status in the constitution of Pakistan and the federal and provincial laws are not extended to these Tribal Areas. As a result, the inhabitants of tribal areas are outside the jurisdiction of the High and Supreme Court of Pakistan. Hence, tribals are denied basic human rights guaranteed to the citizens of Pakistan. In the absence of statutory laws, Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) 1901 is used to maintain law and order in FATA. Under FCR, Jirga, a gathering of tribal elders, decides civil and criminal cases according to Pukhtun customary laws and self-proclaimed interpretation of Islamic Sharia.

Women are denied their basic rights in the name of either Pukhtunwali (Pukhtun Code of Conduct) or Islam or both, the right to property being the most important one of them. Landownership has been traditionally important not only as source of income, but is also a status symbol in settled and tribal areas. Owing to limited business, industry and employment opportunities in FATA, landownership has added significance in terms of status and power. In FATA, with the exception of Kurram Agency, land revenue record is not documented. Individual land ownership in the tribe is oral but well known to succeeding generations. Ownership of shamilat (collective lands) is identified and acknowledged by the clans and tribes too.

In tribal culture, a woman has no identity, except with a man. Pukhtunwali does not allow a woman to own land independently or be known by the people on her own. Women are denied the right to inheritance, irrespective of the fact that Islam and Pakistani law recognize this right.


* Samina Afridi is lecturer at the Dept. of Philosophy, University of Peshawar. She is enrolled as a PhD scholar in Area Study Center, University of Peshawar. Her research on Gender Consciousness Amongst Pukhtuns is in progress.

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Land and the Patriarchal Bargain

by Nazish Brohi*

This paper will attempt to examine the changing nuances of women's economic positioning in rural Sindh and probe the possibility of land ownership as a means of empowerment, while exploring the local discourse around it. The paper will be based on findings of field work and data generated by an SDPI research project on Women and Land Rights, focusing on two sites in Sindh - Khairpur and Hyderabad, capturing the dynamics of rural agricultural heartland with intact traditional structures, and urban proximity with resultant outbound migration, agri-disinvestment and changing power structures, respectively. It results from extensive structured interviews with women, surveys with men and group discussions with both, spanning landless peasants, small/ subsistence farmers, medium scale land holders and big land holders from each research site.

I will attempt to show that women's agency can be read in negotiations with patriarchy, and that being barred from alternative justice frameworks, they have conceded to and demand concessions from a system that has its internal logic and justifiability, and that their conflicts and contestations are expressed within that system. The paper proposes to highlight how pacts with patriarchy subvert conventional approaches to empowerment and illustrate the need to dismantle formulaic categorizations of political, economical, social and cultural solutions common in the development discourse.


* Nazish Brohi is a researcher and social activist who has worked extensively on issues of violence and women's rights, written on Political Islam and been associated with various networks and development organizations. She is currently associated as a Research Consultant with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad, Pakistan.

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