Seeking legal justice in Pakistan is not merely a process. It is a long, tedious, and possibly endless journey. Godot may arrive before the verdict. The current alternative, functioning in tandem with courts from time immemorial, is an extra-constitutional jirga (local village council) with misogynistic inclinations. Barbaric though a jirga may be, its decisions are prompt. An eye for an eye ceases to be a metaphor amongst men leading a jirga. And that eye is taken without delay. But in a society where the law is no longer seen as an efficacious arbiter of justice, community created mechanisms for dispute resolutions will also devolve. Each individual will be left to act as an agent against injustice. And chaos will ensue.Recently, on October 27th, news broke of nine men in Dera Ismail Khan stripping a young girl named Sharifa Bibi bare and parading her down the streets. For one hour she was shoved and dragged unable to cover her body even with her bare hands. According to the Human Rights Commission Pakistan during 2016 alone, 31 other women had shared Sharifa Bibi’s fate; almost three women a month degraded, demeaned and dehumanised. Across Pakistan this brutality is recognised as a jirga’s signature form of punishment for attaining social justice.15 years ago in the village of Meerwala, Mukhtar Mai was gang raped and paraded nude as retribution. By disrobing her for the public eye, at the behest of men the villagers deemed wise, Mai’s body was transmuted into a trophy for these men. It became a site where the battle was carried out amongst men and won. Today the female body still remains a site for resolving conflicts by the jirga system. Time has not altered its function for these men. Sitting in a circle, the tribal elders still twirl female fates around their thumbs and debase women inhabiting their areas in the name of justice. Stories which often surface on mainstream media regarding jirgas primarily concern women. However, this is not the entirety of a jirga’s role. Jirgas are the primitive counterpart of Pakistan’s judiciary, albeit an illegal one. From petty theft to murder, all and any conflict can be brought before a jirga.The jirga system has long governed the day to day lives of those residing within its confines. Individuals readily follow a jirga’s decisions and regard it as an integral part of life despite the barbaric nature of the decrees. The existence of a jirga provides them with a sense of security, as it is a quick means of dispensing justice. While cases may be dragged out in courts for decades to come, they know the jirga will always reach a timely decision. The jirga system has long governed the day to day lives of those residing within its confines. Individuals readily follow a jirga’s decisions and regard it as an integral part of life despite the barbaric nature of the decreesIf one is to go by the maxim justice delayed is justice denied, then our courts are failing its people and their failure is painting jirgas as a better alternative. Let us put aside cases concerning ordinary individuals for a while. The legal system is such that even trials against prominent persons are dragged till the public galleries empty out. The court took almost ten years to reach a verdict on the Benazir Bhutto murder case.After a decade of hearings, on 31st August 2017, the anti-terrorism court set five Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspects free, and announced a seventeen year imprisonment for two police officials. The icing on this verdict was that on the October 6th, a little more than a month after their conviction, the cops were released on bail and went back to work. But even if we stop poking at the past in the name of optimism, the present still doesn’t look very promising. The justice carriage is just barely dragging its wheels across the road. It has been over two years since the Panama Papers were published. Till today reporters are chasing the Sharif family in and out of courtrooms. The Panama issue ping-ponged from one chief justice to another, leapt to a joint investigation team and eventually landed in the accountability court. Yet the former Prime Minister and his family’s fates remain undecided.During the time our nation was running circles around one name released in the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists managed to work on a new Paradise Leak, exposing data of over 25,000 companies across 180 countries. Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has been named in this new leak. Now how long will it take to bring him before the court of law? Pakistan’s courts are overburdened. Fighting cases in courts, citizens are turning old and grey. Thus support for a jirga system is unsurprising. When one constitutional justice system visibly fails individuals, it automatically paints the unconstitutional jirga system as a better means of attaining justice. But even jirgas are losing the respect they once commanded. Consequently, the government’s attempt to integrate them into the formal justice system is futile.On February 3rd the Alternative Dispute Resolution 2017 bill, tabled by Minister of Law Zahid Hamid, was passed by the national assembly. If also passed by the senate, it will allow the government to appoint ‘neutral arbitrators’ to approve a jirga’s verdicts, giving the primitive system constitutional cover.According to BBC News, three years ago, Sharifa Bibi’s brother was accused of gifting a mobile to one of the villager’s daughters, thereby creating conflict between their families. Resolving the dispute, the community jirga ordered the man to pay a fine of 300,000 rupees to the offended family. The payment was made and it was assumed the matter was closed. But this wasn’t the case.Although this is just one case of disregarding a jirga’s decision, with time more cases will arise unless legal reforms take place. In an environment where an official legal system exists, but is not the first choice for attaining justice, how long can an informal jirga system be revered? Our legal system is a limping juggernaut provoking individuals to act as judge, jury and executioner. The government’s attempt to ease the courts’ load by dumping the burden of justice onto jirgas is more than a reckless move. It is a move which may prove fatal. The juggernaut must walk, run and fly before it is too late.The writer has a master’s in media with a distinction from the London School of Economics. She tweets @mawish_mPublished in Daily Times, November 12th 2017.