Swara Case in Swat Puts Girl’s Life at Stake

The tribal system of justice is a continued agent of injustice and human rights violation in many parts of Pakistan. In some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there is still this senseless tradition of swara, i.e. settling a dispute by giving a girl or woman from one’s family in marriage to the other party as a form of compensation for some wrong or offense. The female to be sacrificed thus for benefitting the family doesn’t have to be an adult; in many cases, a minor is thrown into this inferno.

The most recent case of swara also includes a minor of 13 years. The incident has been reported from Swat district where a family dispute broke out over an extra-marital relationship between a woman and the minor girl’s brother. Offended, the woman’s family resorted to jirga – meeting of community leaders – and they decided that the 13-year-old girl be wedded to an old man in the woman’s family, or else pay a sum of Rs. 253, 000 (somewhere less than $2700) to the said family as compensation for the offense. While a little different and more detailed version of the case is found at zamaswat.com, the basic issue remains the same and no wonder the child to be sacrificed is ready to commit suicide instead of becoming the scapegoat.

Sad as it is to see such ignorance and insensitivity in these areas, there is a more alarming aspect that supports such cruel traditions to prevail, namely the complicity of law enforcers. In the above mentioned case of swara, in which the girl to be sacrificed is a minor, police are reportedly an active party in the attempt of getting the girl married to the old man. A local Urdu paper reported that the said girl’s father was arrested by the police who threatened him with serious consequences in case he refused to give his daughter in marriage to the older man in the rival family.

There is hardly any hope for justice or some positive change when law enforcers become part of a gang of offenders. Of course, the police authorities deny the allegation that the swara decision actually took place inside the police station. But the allegations alone stand as hair-raising, given that the police department throughout the country is highly infamous for its indulgence in bribery. Hopefully, human rights organizations – who should have by now paid the compensation out of the millions of funds received in donations from abroad for relieving suffering – will finally be able to intervene and save the life of an innocent girl.