Jirga orders man to barter teenage sister in marriage

KARACHI: Unhappy with a couple eloping to contract a marriage of their own free will in the Ghotki District of Sindh Province in Pakistan, a jirga called by an influential local landlord, sought to settle the ‘dispute’ by ordering the barter of the boy’s 14 year old sister in marriage.

The underaged girl along with her mother protested outside the SSP office in Mirpur Mathelo, who feigned ignorance of either the jirga or its verdict. Meanwhile, troubled by the decision of the jirga, the couple whose marriage was being opposed has eloped a second time and is untraceable. Jirgas were deemed illegal by the Sukkur Bench of the Sindh High Court through a landmark ruling a decade ago, in 2004, but they continue to be held in parts of Pakistan.  

According to sources, the jirga was held under the presidency of an influential landlord, Akbar Mahar. After hearing both the parties, the jirga declared Niaz Mahar guilty of tying a free-will marriage knot with Naheed Mahar, daughter of Ali Sher Mahar. After the verdict, the jirga imposed a fine of Rs 600,000 and ordered the boy to ‘barter’ his teenage sister, Sabira, for marriage to resolve the dispute.

Expressing her disapproval with the jirga’s verdict, Niaz’s mother Qaim Khatoon and her daughter staged a protest outside the SSP office in Mirpur Mathelo. “I don’t even know where the couple is,” said Khatoon. “Akbar and his men tried to kidnap my daughter and therefore I am here, demanding protection.”

When contacted, Ghotki SSP Abdul Salam Shaikh said he was unaware of the Jirga. “I have not received any information regarding a jirga or the order to barter the girl,” he claimed. However, he said he was investigating the matter.

Three months ago, Niaz and Naheed, both residents of Atal Muradani, got married of their own free will. The marriage sparked enmity between the two families and some of the elders intervened and managed to separate the couple. Since then, Naheed has been living with her parents. Four days ago, influential landlord Akbar Mahar, uncle of Naheed, presided over a jirga and ordered the barter of Niaz’s 14-year-old sister in marriage. Unhappy with the verdict of the jirga, Niaz and Naheed eloped again and have now gone into hiding.

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