A group of clerics in Kohistan has issued a contentious decree regarding the conduct of female non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers in public spaces, especially around men, known as “na mahram.”
The pronouncement, made by a 12-member clerical body, threatens to expel married women found in the company of na mahram men and compels single women to marry any man they work with.
The drastic directive has sparked an immediate backlash, with local authorities, including the assistant commissioner of Kohistan’s Pattan area, Muhammad Bilal, rejecting the edict and vowing to prevent its enforcement.
Tension Between Custom and Law
The clerics, including one identified as Maulana Karimdad, have taken to social media to reinforce their stance, facing criticism for attempting to impose non-state rules that contradict the country’s legal framework.
The insistence on adhering to their customs over official law poses a complex challenge for NGO operations in the region, with threats of forced marriages or expulsion looming over women who don’t comply.
Despite these threats, the assistant commissioner remains firm in his opposition, suggesting the clerics’ actions are driven by ulterior motives and assuring that NGOs have the right to work without such constraints.