Many people, especially the eager students of history, ask me what the state had done to bring positive change in the women’s life. Were any laws introduced to safeguard the basic rights of women folk? As I was in no way associated with the judicial system of the state but I had the good luck to observe many organs of the state practically working before my eyes. We had two courts of tehsildar and ‘Masheers’ close to our houses in Afsar Abad. I have seen many officers working in these courts, i.e., Muhammad Majid Khan, Behroz Khan as Masheers, Abdul Jalil Khan, Saifur Rehman, Sarfaraz Khan as Tehsildars, Sher Shah Khan, Azizul Rahman, Faseehul Lissan as Hakims and Masheers, Ajab Khan and much more influential officers, delivering justice in family disputes and property matters.
Having said all this, I think the Rulers of Swat could not bring vital change in women’s status. My observation in this regard is that the state had no mandatory power to enforce reforms regarding social customs of the society. They were not totalitarian dictators, but were bound to keep within the parameters of the social contract between the Jirgas of the various Khels and tribes and the state. Fines and punishments for each crime were fixed by these Jirgas with mutual consent of the Ruler and his subjects. Women folk were living under the same centuries old system as men. Then most Khels had different approach to women’s rights.
I asked those champions of women rights in Swat, what change they could have observed in the last fifty years when Swat State has been merged with Pakistan. Women’s rights have been clearly defined in Islam but the male dominated society of Pakistan has never put them into practice. Look at the women having inheritance to large property are forcibly stopped to have a marriage contract. Can anyone quote any example in the tribal belt, that women can get her share as defined in Islam.
Anyhow, the then Rulers did try to do some work on women’s rights. For example, physical assaults were categorized and punishments were infected in such cases of violation. I was mandatory to register the Nikah Nama, or marriage bond in order to ensure the ‘mehr’ of the bride.
Severe punishments were chalked out in the Royal Decrees, issued from time to time and strictly imposed which can be seen in the ‘Riwaj Nama’. Rigorous imprisonments were awarded to those who cut the nose of a woman on charges of adultery. We have observed many cases decided in favour of women in domestic problems and hardships. Rules of divorce were also chalked out. Women folk throughout Pakistan face the same misfortunes and maltreatment. So why single out the fifty years of the Mianguls in Swat. It is not fair.