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Peshawar High Court lets swara victim marry man of choice

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday allowed a destitute woman from local shelter home to marry the man of her choice and directed the provincial social welfare department to generate funds for her marriage by contacting philanthropists and nongovernmental organisations.

The woman, Zarwari, had fled home a year ago after her family planned to marry her to a married man for settling a dispute under the swara tradition.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Khalid Mahmood conducted brief interview of the man, Shamsur Rehman, who had offered to marry the woman saying he’ll arrange two tolas of gold ornaments and Rs75,000 as dowry for her.

The bench directed the directress of the social welfare department, Shazia Raza Khattak, to arrange dowry items for the girl from the funds of the department.

Ms Khattak said under the relevant rules, the directorate of the social welfare could provide up to Rs20,000 to the woman. The bench directed her to contact NGOs and philanthropists to raise money for her marriage, a noble cause.

The hearing into the case was later adjourned to Feb 12.

The woman was sent to the government-run women crisis centre in Oct 2011 by the high court after she appeared before a bench and said she had escaped her residence as her family, including uncle and brother, intended to give her in swara to an old
Afghan man, Manan, who was already married and had children.

She had claimed that many years ago when she was an infant, Afghan girl, Zar Guloona, had eloped with her uncle, Zahir Khan alias Mullah Jan, and they got married. She had alleged that a jirga at that time had decided that she would be given in swara to a cousin of the said girl and her marriage would be solemnised once she attained puberty.

A few weeks ago, the woman submitted an application to the high court’s human rights directorate requesting that she no longer wanted to live in the crisis centre and should be allowed to leave that place.

Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan had summoned her and convinced her that she could not be allowed to leave the centre when even she was not aware where she would be going.

Later, the woman informed the court that Shamsur Rehman, a resident of Gulbela village in Charsadda, had proposed her for marriage.

When the bench took up for hearing the case on Wednesday, it asked Shams about his occupation. He said he was owner of a tractor-trolley and if work was available, then he earned from Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 daily.

The chief justice inquired how he had met the woman. He said she was a friend of his sister and that he was in contact with her over the telephone. He added that to ease her misery, he and his sister had decided that he should marry her.

When the bench asked the woman whether she was okay with the proposal, she replied in affirmative and said she had no objection to the marriage.