A women peace jirga on Sunday called upon the Pakistan government not to yield to the demands of the fundamentalist camp clamouring for implementation of sharia laws.
They were expressing their concern over the peace deal in Swat valley by which the government seems to have abjectly abdicated its rights to the Taliban.
Normally a jirga is held by community elders among certain tribes, and mostly their decisions turn out to be retrograde.
For a change, civil society organisations, women activists and parliamentarians of the ruling Awami National Party (ANP) got together to mark the International Women's Day in Peshawar, capital of the troubled North-West Frontier Province.
"When negotiating and implementing peace agreements, adopt gender perspective, ensure protection of rights of women and girls. There should be no negotiations with militants and terrorists unless they commit to putting down arms, and under no condition threaten and violate women's rights ensured in constitution and international covenant," said a declaration after the jirga.
Speakers on the occasion asked the government to ensure women's perspective in negotiations and implementation of peace deals. They pointed out that insurgency and counter-insurgency strategies were threatening women's rights and participation, mobility and access to socio-economic and political development.
Musarrat Hilali, vice-chairperson Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, NWFP chapter, urged the provincial government that it should guarantee women's rights to education, work, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights when it signed peace deals with militants.
'Islam gives women their due rights. When it comes to women's rights then you should follow Islam not the Pakhtun mindset," she said while criticising the male-dominated society where, according to her, men suppressed women in the name of religion and culture.
Afrasiab Khattak, ANP provincial president, said the government would not reconcile with those who oppose girls' education. He assured that schools would open for girls in Swat. Mr Khattak said that they held talks with militants and wanted to implement Nizam-i-Adal in Swat.
"The fire that has spread in our home could engulf the entire country. So we appeal to the rest of the country to help us bring peace here," Mr Khattak said. He assured to amend those laws which violated women's rights. "We will fight evil, destructive and violent forces which curb women's rights."
Women had come from different civil society groups and political parties to attend the event. They spoke in Urdu, Pashto, Hindko, Siraiki and other languages. In a unified voice, they demanded peace so that women could play their role in social and economic development in the region.
MPA Noor Sahar said that girls should not be deprived of education as they had a rebuilding role in society. Shabina Ayaz, resident director Aurat Foundation, highlighted the situation of women in the Frontier. Referring to the peace accord with the militants in Swat, she hoped that women of the province should not be forced to pay a price for the peace deals. "The government should always keep women's rights in mind when signing such deals with the extremists," she said.
The women jirga called upon the government to facilitate women's participation in decision-making process. It demanded end to crimes against humanity including sexual violence against women. It sought an independent humanitarian commission to analyse the extent of devastation as a result of insurgency and military operations and recommend adequate compensation. Health and education facilities for women were also demanded.
Slogans like "we flower-like children want peace" and "war is not solution, don't fight" were also heard on the occasion. Women narrated their ordeal after the waves of extremism, militancy and military operations in the NWFP. The jirga ended with a peace rally.