THE Federal Shariat Court (FSC) recently asked the provincial government in Balochistan to speed up action on the bill against forced marriages. This happened after the father of a minor girl filed application before FSC against forced and underage marriage of her daughter on the orders of a jirga to settle a murder case.
It is common practice in the country that jirgas and panchayats deal with disputed matters that often result in miscarriage of justice. The jirga system prevailing in Balochistan and erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) entails inhuman ‘punishments’ and unbelievable ways to prove one’s innocence or guilt. These are as brutal as they are in defiance of logic and even common sense.
In 2019, the Supreme Court declared illegal the powers of jirgas and panchayats and ruled that such matters must be settled only through routine judicial process.
Also, the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, provides for punishment of up to six months to those who arrange such marriages. And yet, such incidents continue to take place.
The relevant ministry, parliament and higher judiciary need to look into the matter and work jointly to declare such practices an offence by providing corresponding punishment, and by putting in place a strict check on the exercise of arbitrary decisions by jirgas.
Toba Tek Singh
Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2023