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KARACHI, June 14: A court has barred the forced marriage of two girls into a rival family to compensate for a dispute over payment for three buffaloes, officials said on Wednesday.

The judge overturned a ruling by a jirga of tribal elders in Shikarpur involving the girls aged six and eight, lawyer Paryal Mari of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP.

The traditional practice of vani, which involves giving away girls to be married at puberty to settle local feuds, has been banned but it continues in remote areas.

The argument developed over money owed to local feudal lord Imdad Sithar for the buffaloes which he had given to a villager, Mohammad Ramzan.

“The jirga imposed a fine of Rs170,000 and asked Ramzan either to pay the amount or give his two daughters as compensation to Sithar,” Mari said.

The grandmother of the two girls, Rani Begum, resisted the decision and said she would not allow anyone to touch her granddaughters. “No one can take my grandchildren from me,” she told reporters in Shikarpur.

The judge also ordered a judicial inquiry into the jirga, Mari said.