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PESHAWAR, March 20: All district police officers in the NWFP have been officially ordered to keep an eye on “Swara” and “Vani” customs in their areas. In a circular issued to DPOs, provincial police chief Muhammad Raffat Pasha asked them to register cases against anyone involved in the cruel customs. Swara and vani customs are used to settle enmities and disputes between two tribes or families. One family hands over a girl to the rival family without consent of the girl.

The circular has been issued following an order of a full bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Faqir Muhammad Kokhar and Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan had, on Feb 24, ordered the PPOs of the four provinces to save women from the cruel customs.

The bench passed the order in a case of five girls of Mianwali who had appealed to the president of Pakistan and the Chief Justice to save them from the inhuman and cruel custom and on a petition filed by Ms Samar Minallah against Swara.

Ms Minallah had shown to the judge a documentary film “Swara— bridge over troubled waters”. She has compiled data of Swara cases.

The PPO has directed the district police chiefs to communicate his orders to all SHOs in the province. He has reminded them that there is no room for handing over of women to rival groups for settling feuds because the customs of Swara and Vani are illegal and unconstitutional.

The parliament, it may be mentioned, has declared “badal-e-sulh” illegal and a penal offence. On Jan 11, 2005, it incorporated section 310A in the Pakistan Penal Code. The section says that whoever gives a female in marriage or otherwise in badal-i-sulh shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to ten years but shall not be less than three years.

Paramedics strike: Women paramedical staff and trainees observed a two-hour token strike in government hospitals of the province on Monday to press their demands.

The protesting nurses warned the provincial health department that they would extend their protest if their problems were not solved immediately.

President of the Nurse Association Nazir Rehman said that in the first phase the strike was being observed from 8am to 10am. She said the government was not negotiating with the association’s leaders.

She said the paramedics were allowed to provide emergency cover to patients during the strike.

The association has demanded accommodation facilities for married nurses and upgrading of posts of nurses in charge from BPS-14 to BPS-16 and head nurses from BPS-16 to BPS-17.

It has also demanded change in recruitment and service rules, quota in scholarships for higher education, transport facilities for student nurses and increase in their stipends.

The strike badly affected work in the three major government hospitals in the provincial capital.