Enforcement of anti-Swara laws in FATA, PATA demanded

PESHAWAR: Representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) have demanded extension of laws banning Swara (handing over of girls to rival groups for settlement of disputes) to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) where, according to them, this customary practice has destroyed the lives of hundreds of girls.

Under an act passed on January 11, 2005, the federal government had made the handing over of girls to rival groups for settlement of disputes a penal offence. Section 310-A was added to the Pakistan Penal Code, which calls for imprisonment for up to ten years on committing the offence.

The federal as well as the NWFP governments did not extend these laws to FATA and PATA and the custom continues to be practiced in these regions.

Seven out of 24 districts of the NWFP are situated in PATA that include Upper and Lower Dir, Swat, Chitral, Buner, Shangla and Malakand. There are seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions in FATA.

Samar Minnalah, an anthropologist and expert on Swara, says that Swara practice is common in PATA and FATA as laws banning Swara are yet to be extended to these parts of the country.

Describing the cruel practice of Swara, she said in acknowledgement of its guilt, a group hands over one or more of their girls to their rivals. A Swara girl is just given food and clothing and not allowed to take part in social gatherings and family rituals. Swara is a human rights’ abuse which still exists.

“It is a social crime, which is not restricted to a region or two. In other parts, it is practiced with other names such as Vanni, Sang Chatti, Khoon Baha, etc.,” she added.

Uzma Mehboob of the Aurat Foundation demanded of the government to extend Swara laws to the Federally and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, saying the rate of Swara cases is comparatively much higher in these areas.

Staff report

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