Stephen Lyon

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Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Faculty of Arts and Sciences


In Pakistan different conflicts require different legal venues and different stages of the same conflict may require plural legal venues. Attempts by the Pakistan government to undermine traditional conflict arbitration have not eradicated these processes. This paper argues that none of the current legal venues available to Pakistanis is sufficient without recourse to the others. The three venues are Islamic law (shari’at), the Pakistani civil code and traditional arbitration systems in the form of jirga or panchayat (or their equivalents). While the first two may arguably be classified as modernist legal systems with compatible objectives, the third is distinctly different. Traditional arbitration serves collective interests for group harmony rather than addressing questions of #justice#, as I will explain below. In this way, traditional justice systems enable Pakistan's polyethnic population, with competing ideologies and conflicts of interest, to contain disputes and tension in the face of extreme economic, environmental and political instability.

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