Peoples and Ethnic Groups: Tribal Society - Conflict: Tribes vs. Government

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Though Pakistan would like to control the tribal areas, the FATA region has proven too unruly to control. At issue is the central government's desire to limit autonomous tribal rule in favor of laws that govern all the peoples of the land equally. The government sees tribal codes as a way for tribal leaders to maintain independent rule that could threaten the stability of the country and limit rights guaranteed under the constitution. The Pashtun people see the Pakistani government as a threat to their autonomy because the government would overrule their code of conduct (Pashtunwali code) and would give greater rights to women along with forcing government approved education on their children. Of the many points of contention with the Pashtun are the practices of handing over women as compensation in blood feuds, honor killings of women, and keeping women from educational and health resources.

The nomadic, tribal Baluch people have come into conflict with the national government over the Baluch Nationalist movement. This movement calls for the provincial autonomy of Baluchistan over most aspects of rule. Sardar Attaullah Mengal, a Baluch nationalist leader, states that “We want the federal government to deal with only three subjects: foreign affairs, defense, and currency. All other matters must be in the hands of the provinces”[14]. The Pakistani government is afraid to hand over more powers to the Baluch people as they believe they would lose control over Baluchistan, especially because the province shares its borders with Afghanistan and Iran [15].

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Many controversial practices may be understood if placed within the tribal ideology of honor, deference, and pride. For example, blood feuds, where one member of a tribe is killed and in retaliation any member of the offending tribe is killed, can be understood when honor of the family is taken into account. If a member of the family is murdered, even if for a seemingly good reason, the whole family loses honor. To regain honor, any person from the offending family may be killed; the person killed does not have to be the actual offender because the whole family's honor is interconnected and any death would suffice. Another commonly misunderstood practice is honor killing. A woman's honor is closely guarded and if she were to lose her honor this would cause the whole family shame. For example, if a woman committed adultery, then she could be killed for the family to regain their honor. This might seem like an extreme reaction to most Westerners but the action is not solely based on a family's honor. One might wonder why a man would not be punished as harshly as the woman. It all comes down to the practice of deference. Because a woman went against prescribed societal values, she also inadvertently upset the hierarchal system and the deference due to superiors. By purposely rebelling, she has stripped her superior of his authority thereby limiting his ability to control the group. Although a man can be subject to an honor killing it is not as common because he is more likely to be in a position of authority and his misbehavior would not as severely impact the system of deference as a woman's misbehavior [16].

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