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Experts want law enacted to check barbaric customs
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Experts want law enacted to check barbaric customs


Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, July 28: The tribal custom of handing over girls for settling feuds could be checked with the implementation of existing laws, enactment of a law prohibiting this practice and increasing education facilities in rural areas , said legal experts and human rights activists.

"People sacrifice their women relatives, specially daughters and sisters, to save themselves, which is a barbaric custom," said Qazi Mohammad Jamil, a former judge of the Peshawar High Court and ex-attorney general of Pakistan.

He said although none of the laws in Pakistan allowed such brutal customs, there should be a law clearly prohibiting such acts and compromises like that of Mianwali deal.

The chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Afrasiab Khattak, told Dawn: "Due to weak governance extra-judicial forums like Jirgas and Panchayat have cropped up, which have taken upon themselves to decide fate of an individual."

Such forums, he added, were tilted in favour of the dominant segments of the society and were against the vulnerable groups and weaker sections specially women.

A member of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Bushra Gohar, said there should be a law for curbing barbaric customs like sacrificing girls for settling disputes. However, she believed that implementation of laws was more important as laws were already available in Pakistan. She said media played an important role in highlighting inhuman traditions which had crept into our society due to ignorance.

She said the commission would take up this issue in its forthcoming meeting to be held in Quetta on Aug 9.

Further dilating on the issue, Qazi Jamil said: "Marriage is a sacred contract in which the consent of both a boy and a girl is mandatory. Through the practice of handing over girls to rival parties for settling disputes the law of contract has been violated."

The former attorney general said the inhuman practice could not be justified on any ground as Islam also did not permit such acts.

Apart from lack of specific law for dealing with the issue, Mr Jamil pointed out the aspect of ignorance in the society which gave birth to such customs, stating that the government should pay heed to educating the masses in rural areas.Moreover, he said the NGOs and social workers should also divert their attention towards rural areas instead of remaining confined to urban centres.

Afrasiab Khattak regretted that due to ignorance and lack of education, tribal and patriarchal traditions had been holding sway over the law. He pointed out that the family laws were not implemented as under the law marriage was a contract and the rights and obligations of the parties should be observed. "Giving a girl in marriage for ending blood-feuds is violative of the law," he maintained.

Mr Khattak also supported the contentions of Mr Jamil that ignorance was the root-cause of such customs and unless the society was made aware about such acts, enactment of a law alone could not check these vices. "Unless there is a rule of law on every level such things will continue to occur," he added.