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PHC sends Swara victim to shelter home

By: Waseem Ahmad Shah

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday sent a local girl to shelter home after she turned up for protection against Swara, a practice in which little girls are married off to members of rival families to settle old feuds.

Apparently in her late teens and a resident of Daudzai area in Peshawar, Zar Wali appeared before Chief Justice PHC Ejaz Afzal Khan during a hearing with a written request that she be protected from her brother and mother, who wanted to marry her to 80-year-old Manan already having children and grandchildren.

The girl alleged that Zar Guloona had eloped with her paternal uncle from Afghanistan, Zahir Khan, many years ago and a jirga had ruled that she be given in Swara to the runaway’s family after reaching adulthood for marriage to her uncle Manan.

The chief justice converted her request into a petition and put on notice her family members, the advocate general and officials of Daudzai police station before fixing the hearing for October 20. He also ordered police to shift the girl to Darul Aman (shelter home) after she claimed she had no place to live and that her family could harm them.

Ms Zar Wali told reporters outside the courtroom that she would prefer committing suicide to returning to her home. She said he father, Qadir Khan, was an Afghan refugee, while her mother hailed from Swat district.

“My father was against the decision of the jirga but as he has expired, my elder brother, Musafir, and my mother had agreed to hand me over to the rival family,” she said. She said she was not sure how old was she now and how many years ago the Swara ruling was made.

Ms Zar Wali said her uncle had now arranged the marriage of his daughter with her elder brother due to which the latter was accepting their demand to marry her off to Manan.Of late, she said the rival family had visited her brother following which it was decided that her nikkah would be solemnised with Manan 10 days after the forthcoming festival of Eidul Azha.

When asked how she reached the high court, she said someone had suggested her to move the chief justice PHC saying he was known for ensuring dispensation of justice to the women in distress. She further said when she visited the court, a lawyer took pity on her and drafted the request for protection which she submitted to the chief justice.

The girl said she had two brothers and three sisters and her elder brother Musafir had been ‘hand in gloves’ with the rival family and would kill her in case of opposition to Swara tradition.

“I asked my mother why I should pay the price for the wrongs of my uncle but to no avail,” Ms Zar Wali said.

Source: Dawn