Human rights activists in Pakistan have appealed to the federal and provincial governments to save 15 underage girls betrothed to settle a blood feud between two tribes.
As per a decision reported last week, the Chakrani tribe is to "marry off" three- to 10-year-old girls to settle the feud with the Qalandari tribe. It was when a dog of the latter clan bit a donkey of the former eight years ago, a fierce dispute had erupted.
The feud claimed the lives of 11 Qalandaris and two Chakranis, including a woman.
Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had handed down a verdict in 2002, commanding the Chakrani tribe to pay a fine of Rs4 million while the Qalandaris will pay Rs1.2 million to the other and marry off a girl every month irrespective of the ages of their "fiancés."
At a jirga held Wednesday last in Lanjoo Saghari village near the Sindh-Balochistan border, it was decided to implement the ruling of six years ago.
Marrying off underage girls to settle disputes over crimes like murder or adultery is a common practice among tribes of Sindh and Balochistan.
The Liberal Forum Pakistan (LFP) has now urged the federal and provincial governments to urgently intervene to save the betrothed girls.
In a statement, LFP Chairman Anees Jillani and other office-bearers appealed to the federal government including the minister for women development and minister for social welfare and the provincial government of Sindh to urgently intervene in the matter and save the girls.
The hapless girls are meted out a treatment that is worse than in the case of cattle, he said and stressed such practices were a gross a gross violation of human rights.
Jillani has asked the high courts of Sindh and Balochistan along with other courts to take suo motu notice of this most recent incident and told the Sindh provincial president of the LFP to file a constitutional petition against this jirga decision on the basis of relevant constitutional articles and the Pakistan Penal Code provisions.
A few years ago, Sukkur circuit bench of the Sindh High Court had declared the holding of a jirga illegal on a public interest petition filed by lawyer-cum-human rights activist Ghulam Shabbir Shar. In late 2006, the then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of a similar jirga presided over by PPP leader Mir Bijarani.
The jirga had ordered a tribe to give three under- age girls in marriage to their rivals to settle a dispute. The chief justice's timely intervention had saved the girls from being sacrificed at the altar of tribal customs.
Jillani has also asked the print and the electronic media to take notice of such incidents and to keep constant pressure on the authorities concerned and the government to take action against the culprits, Dawn newspaper reports.