By: Mohammad Saleem
FAISALABAD: A village panchayat gave away an eight-year-old girl, Sidra, as vani — compensation – earlier this week for reconciliation in a kidnapping and rape case in which her father was the accused.
The incident, which took place in Chak 608-GB, was brought to Dawn’s notice on Thursday. According to details available in a complaint lodged with police, the panchayat (jury of elders) also barred Sidra’s father, Arshad, from taking any legal action against its decision, and warned him violation of the ban could cost him Rs400,000 in fine.
According to his wife, the panchayat forcibly secured Arshad’s thumb impression on a surety bond.
In 2011, Ali Sher had nominated Arshad in the abduction and rape of his daughter. Arshad was sent to jail, was released some time later. Soon afterwards he went to the police with the complaint that Ali Sher had thrashed him. As tensions between the two sides increased relatives and neighbours intervened and a panchayat came into being, headed by a former member of the local district council identified as Abbas.
Sidra’s mother Nazeeran Bibi alleged a group of men – including Ishaq, Lado, Abbas, Ismail, Lateef, Shah Behram, and Ali Sher — had forcibly taken Arshad with them to produce him before panchayat “a few days ago”. There he was coerced into giving his daughter away in compensation and to sign the bond.
In her statement, Nazeeran Bibi said the panchayat declared her daughter vani and married her off to Maqsood, 17. However, the little girl was allowed to go off with her father. She was to remain with her parents until a proper ceremony in which she was to be sent to her in-laws’ house could be arranged.
The unfortunate child bride could understand little of what she had been through – except that she had been taken away against her will.
According to SSP (operations) Sadiq Ali a case had been registered against eight people including the local cleric and raids would be conducted soon for their arrest. The cleric, Ishaq, had solemnised the nikah orally and did not give any document to Sidra’s family, he said.
The SSP confirmed a panchayat was indeed held, attended by both the sides.