Test of fire
DESPITE the fact that we're living in the 21st century, inhuman and age-old customs are still being practised in our part of the world. Phrases like 'the world has become a global village' lose all their meaning when one sees the plight of our people living in the backward areas of the country. This regrettable fact can be put down to the gross lack of education and the ruthless ways with which the Nawabs and the Sardars lead their lives here.
Certain inhuman things practised in Balochistan need to be discussed here. There was a time when the issues of karo-kari, theft, land and monetary disputes were settled through traditional laws implemented by the jirgas formed by the Nawabs and the Sardars. In order to prove himself innocent, the accused used to walk on red and hot embers (called char beli in the local language). If his feet appeared to be swollen or burnt, he would be considered guilty.
Sad as it may sound, some young people of this region have re-started to hold char beli jirgas after a lapse of many years. They have revived the dreaded custom. As per tradition, about 10ft-long, 3ft-deep, and 3ft-wide pit is dug in which about 20 clumps of wood are burnt. When the wood is burnt and turns red, the accused is asked to walk on embers. A person belonging to the Bugti tribe is called from Balochistan who is thought to be an expert in such a jirga sitting. He recites Quranic verses and the accused puts his hands over the Holy Quran. Then a goat is slaughtered, and blood is poured into a pot. While the accused walks on embers, two persons stand beside the pit. They lift the accused with their arms when he reaches the end of the pit and immediately his feet are put in the pot containing blood.
In Kenya, the Muslim community has a similar traditions through which they detect causes of, and the people behind, different crimes. According to their tradition, oil is poured into a big iron pot and is heated. Then a ring is placed in the pot. The accused is asked to place his hand in the ring. If his hand remains unscathed, he is declared innocent.
Wali Jan Jakhrani, a resident of Mouladad taluka, Jacobabad once went through the char beli jirga because of a land dispute. When he walked on embers, he fell on them and received burn injuries on his body, not to mention feet. He could not cross the 10ft-long pit, hence he was declared guilty.
In Bahoo Khoso taluka Thul a person Umed Ali Jakhrani complained to his Sardar that Abdul Ghani Jakhrani was a karo (that is, he had illicit relations with a woman). But the accused denied the charge and asked the jirga chief that Umed Ali walk on embers; if he remained unhurt, the accused would be bound to pay some fine. As a result, Umed Ali Jakhrani walked on red embers and his feet were found clean. Abdul Ghani was declared a karo and the Sardar imposed a fine of rupees 300,00 on him which was paid to the complainant.
This practice is against Islamic laws and our religion does not allow to adopt such inhuman things. But due to the lack of education the people of remote areas resort to such traditions.
Malhar Khan Bugti, a resident of Balochistan, is known to be an expert in the char beli jirga. He gets a huge amount to do his job and has so far held about 35,000 such jirgas.
In the Sindh province, such a jirga is not allowed to take place. But the court verdict is not being implemented. These jirgas are held frequently in the province. According to those who practise char beli, justice is delayed in the court of law, and justice delayed is justice denied.
In the end, it has to be said that there is a dire need to address this issue. Otherwise things will go from bad to worse, even with all the talk of the world being a global village making headlines.