Four-year-old Salma who was given as Swara by a Jirga in Buner. - Photo by Nasib Yar Chagharzai

Said Nazir

BUNER: Buner Police have arrested 13 accused involved in Swara case of a four-year-old girl.

Dangri Police Station official Bakht Buland Khan told TNN that Asim Khan alias Mosam Khan, resident of Banda Tangay area, had eloped with the daughter of his neighbour Gul Resh Khan after which enmity developed between the two families.

A local Jirga invited Asim and Gul Resh Khan’s daughter to the village for performing their Nikah (marriage) and resolve the dispute. When the couple arrived in the village, the Jirga members solemnised their Nikah on the condition that Asim Khan’s four-year-old sister Salma will be given as Swara to the son of Gul Resh Khan. Asim Khan was also asked to pay Rs200,000 to Gul Resh Khan.

The official said the Nikah between four-year-old Salma was performed with 12-year-old Mujeeb on 5 May. He said the police after receiving information about the incident conducted a raid on Friday night and arrested five accused from both families including Syed Laiq, Wazir-e-Ala, Zar Taj, Qasim Khan and Wakeel. He said Jirga members including Bakht Zameen, Ashtar Khan, Tanosh Khan, Riaz, Bakht Sultan, Amir Muhammad Khan, Amroz Khan and Nikah Khwan Maulana Zahid Syed have also been arrested.

Swara is a Pashto word denoting a child marriage custom in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This custom is tied to blood feuds among different tribes and clans where young girls are forcibly married to members of different clans in order to resolve the feuds. However, in reality the practice is not limited to just child marriages.

The official said a case has been registered against the accused under 310-A and 39 of Child Protection Act 2010 and they will be presented before the court today (Saturday). Under 310-A, a convict can face imprisonment up to 10 years and Rs200,000 fine, while section 39 imposes three-year imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine on the accused.

District Police Officer (DPO) Buner Irshad Khan Yousafzai said there is no place for such injustice in the society. He said law will take its course whenever such crime is committed and the culprits will be punished.

In 2011, Section 310-A was inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code, stipulating a maximum imprisonment of seven years and fine of Rs500,000 for those guilty of practising swara.

Between 2012-14, as many as 20 cases of swara were registered in seven districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The accused were acquitted in seven cases.