SC calls for vigilance against Jirga system

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered law-enforcement agencies on Thursday to remain vigilant and take swift and strict action to ensure that girls and women were not exchanged to settle local disputes through the Jirga system.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also asked the federal and provincial governments to ensure that people were protected against highhandedness by implementing the court’s previous judgments and relevant laws that discouraged the Jirga system.
Under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2005, section 310A was inserted into the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the custom of giving women for the sake of peace was declared a crime. That section has now been replaced by the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act of 2011.
The Supreme Court in its April 24, 2006, verdict had also asked the government to amend section 310 of the PPC or make an insertion in the Family Act of 1964 to dissolve marriages conducted under ‘wani’. The court had asked the registrars of the high courts and the presidents and general secretaries of the district and tehsil bar associations to set up legal aid committees to help the victims whenever cases of wani or swara were reported to them.
On Thursday the court took up a July 6 incident of wani where a Jirga in village Bangla Gabool, 5km from Rajanpur, had ordered one Noor Hassan either to give the hands of his three sisters along with Rs1 million to the victim family in marriage for killing Mukhtar Hussain or undertake a test of being submerged in water for a considerable time. Otherwise, the opponents would be free to kill him in revenge, the Jirga said.
The incident was reported by the electronic media as a result of which police immediately arrested nine members of the Jirga.
Anthropologist Samar Minallah who has taken up a number of cases before the apex court against the custom of swara — exchanging women for settling disputes relating to offences of adultery or karo kari — praised the police for its prompt action.
She said that except for a few remote areas the old customs of wani and swara were diminishing because of courts’ intervention and the role played by the media and the NGOs. Now the people, particularly women, resist participating in Jirga assemblies.
The court said the government should launch an awareness campaign by involving educational institutions, the media and NGOs to ensure implementation of the laws against the Jirga system and protect the lives of victims of their decisions by enforcing their fundamental rights under Article 9 of the constitution (security of person).
The court disposed of the matter since the case had been registered by police.

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