SWAT  -  The centuries-old customary practice of Swara is still being practiced in the north-western areas of Pakistan as fresh cases of Swara have surfaced in Swat where five girls, including two minors, were given in Swara in Kalam and Matta tehsils.

Swara is an ancient custom practised among tribal people under which girls are married, against their will, to men of rival families to settle disputes.

Sources said that one Farzana had contracted love marriage with Laiqzada in Bazkhela area of tehsil Matta of Swat. A jirga was held to settle a dispute between the two families, which decided that six-year-old sister of Laiqzada would be married off to Farzana’s brother Habibullah, son of Muhammad Iqbal.

On information, police swung into action and registered a case against six persons: Habibullah, Sherzada, Muhammad Iqbal, Sulaiman, Salar and a cleric, Fazal Jamil, who had solemnised the marriage. Fazal Jamil and Habibullah had also been arrested. Police are conducting raids to nab the other accused.

Another four girls, including a minor, were given in Swara for settling two honour-related disputes in tehsil Kalam of Swat district. The decisions were made by two separate jirgas held near the Kalam Bazaar. The members of the first jirga decided to give in Swara Farazia, daughter of Khan Gul, to Muhammad Sadiq, son of Abdul Khaliq. The 10-year-old granddaughter of Khan was given in Swara to grandson of Abdul Khaliq. The jirga also imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on Khan Gul.

In the other case, a youth, son of Jalandar Shah, contracted love marriage with Shazia, daughter of Abdul Malik. A jirga decided to give the 22-year-old daughter of Jalandar Shah to son of Abdul Malik. It also decided to give in Swara the granddaughter of Jalandar Shah to any other male family member of Abdul Malik. The jirga also imposed a fine of Rs350,000 on Jalandar Shah.

Besides these fresh cases, last month on September 5 police arrested seven out of nine accused jirga members who had decided to give a minor girl in Swara to settle a dispute between two families in the Shah Dheri area in Swat. On September 15, Kalokot police foiled an attempt to give away a girl in Swara in Ragstoon area in tehsil Matta of Swat and arrested seven people, including a jirga elder. Police said they received a tip-off that a jirga was being held in Ragstoon which planned to marry off six-year-old Hasina in Swara to an eight-year-old Imran, son of Akbar Ali.

Two months back, in July, yet another incident of Swara took place in tehsil Matta of Sawat where jirga was called to settle an honour-related dispute between Raza Khan and Sardar. The jirga decided to marry off two young daughters of Sardar to Raza Khan’s sons. The marriages of 10-year-old Naz was solemnised with 15-year old Ibrahim and eight-year old Shama with nine-year old Azizullah. The police later arrested eight persons, including parents of the two girls.

Supreme Court lawyer Aizaz ur Rehman, when contacted, opined that it is totally against the constitution of Pakistan and openly violation of fundamental human rights. “What is the purpose of courts and constitution if jirgas are to impose their decisions on people?” he questioned. He said that Swara was illegal and inhuman as under this practice innocent women and girls are punished for the perceived wrongs of the others.