Judge Dredd rules the roost in the badlands of Pakistan

A Week In The Life: Javed Ibrahim Parachar
Click to follow
The Independent Online
JAVED IBRAHIM Parachar points to the bullet holes in his white Toyota and laughs heartily. "They shot 170 bullets into this car," he chortles, "and six into me. But still they didn't kill me. God protects me because I do good for His people and I am a good Muslim."

"Parachar Sahib" as he is respectfully known to everyone in his home town of Kohat - a collection of white-washed barracks, rambling streets, mosques and refugee camps set among dusty hills - does nothing by halves. He is a businessman, a farmer, a member of parliament, the vice-chancellor of an Islamic university, and as a tribal chief is a judge, moral arbiter, teacher, father-figure and ultimate authority for tens of thousands of fellow Parachars as well as a hundred or so thousand other voters in his constituency in the badlands of Pakistan's north-west frontier. He is also about 13 stone and not an inch over 5ft 7. He has a full beard and a broad smile. He says he can't remember the number of times people have tried to kill him.

Nor can he remember how many times he has performed haj - the pilgrimage to Mecca which all devout Muslims have to do once. "Maybe six, maybe eight, maybe ten times," he says.

Javed Ibrahim returned from his most recent haj on Sunday. He brought back copious amounts of zam-zam (holy) water for distribution among friends, family and constituents. He flew from Saudi Arabia to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and went straight to his office and flat in a block specially built for members of the National Assembly. There he tackled his in-tray.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were full of the administrative tedium of central government. He was released from a packed timetable of meetings, debates and dinners on Thursday. Having made his contribution at the government sub-committee on railways and to the committee on religious affairs - with close connections to the extremist Islamists of the Afghan Taliban regime - Javed Ibrahim finally escaped to Kohat, where he lives with his wife, seven children, half a dozen Kalashnikov-toting guards and an endless variety of family retainers.

From the moment he arrived, people began to beat a path to his door. On Friday morning he began a series of "jirgas" - traditional problem- solving councils of tribal elders.

The first case he had to deal with was an argument over missing flour. Flour is in short supply on the north-west frontier and the large amounts smuggled to Afghanistan exacerbate the situation. A deputation from one town had come to tell him that another town was receiving more than its fair share of government allowances.

The next complainant alleged that the government was not paying his and his colleagues' salaries. The next said that the electricity supply to his home had been cut off by political opponents. Javed Ibrahim listened, took no notes but made a number of phone calls, most of which ended with the Urdu word "karo" - "do it".

After having lunch at a huge wedding reception and giving a speech at Friday prayers in the central mosque, Javed Ibrahim was told his presence had been requested at a jirga in the town of Thal, about 65 miles away. After doing about 75 miles an hour all the way, his blue pick-up truck, with a vanful of armed police ahead of him and four in his vehicle, skidded to a halt in a cloud of dust at around 3pm.

An hour later, a violent row over land rights between two families had been sorted out. After listening to both sides, and the local village elders, Javed Ibrahim instructed one family to accept financial compensation for the murder of their son by the other.

He told them not to pursue the normal blood vendetta. There would be no revenge killing. The family were not pleased and, fingering their machine- guns which each man had slung over his shoulder, made their annoyance clear. But they had no choice except to abide by the ruling.

When, in his broken English, Javed Ibrahim describes his role he sounds like a latter-day Judge Dredd. "I am Justice," he says.

On Saturday morning he is up by 7am for the next series of jirgas. They are much the same as the day before - vendettas, violence, petty grievances. He listens to them all and does what he can before driving off to his Islamic university. Then it is on through more dusty brown hills to another town for another jirga.

Half way there the Commissioner of Kohat - the head of the civil administration in the area - calls him on the radio. Two religious factions are at loggerheads over a proposed march through the city and the confrontation threatens to turn nasty. Javed Ibrahim turns round and heads back to the city to broker a peace deal.

That the government needs him so badly is a boost to his prestige. But perhaps that is not surprising. After all he is Justice.

Jason Burke