New low: Pakistan Jirga 'barters' 13 girls to settle dispute

A tribal council allegedly chaired by a Pakistani lawmaker decided to barter 13 minor girls in marriage to settle a dispute between two clans, prompting the Supreme Court today to take action against those responsible.

The 'Jirga' or council allegedly presided over by lawmaker Mir Tariq Masuri in Dera Bugti district of Balochistan last month decided to give away 13 girls aged between four and 16 years in marriage under the controversial 'vani' custom to resolve a dispute between two tribal groups.

A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, which is hearing cases in the Balochistan capital of Quetta, took suo motu notice of the incident today and directed officials to take action against those responsible.

The bench has summoned Masuri and other members of the jirga to appear in court tomorrow.

The dispute centred around the murder of a member of one tribal group by people from another clan. The council also imposed a fine of Rs 3 million on tribesmen involved in the dispute.

However, Masuri, a member of the Balochistan Assembly, denied chairing any meeting of the council. Masuri told the newspaper 'The Dawn' that no such 'jirga' was held in Dera Bugti.

He further claimed he had been away from Dera Bugti for the past three weeks.

A senior official in Dera Bugti confirmed that the girls aged between four and 16 years were "bartered" to end the dispute.

Vani is a controversial custom whereby girls, including minors, are given away in marriage to settle tribal disputes.

Though the custom is illegal, it continues to be practised by tribes in northwest and southwest Pakistan.

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