Watta-satta: Couple, aged 10 and five, ‘divorce’

The two children were divorced by a jirga after their older siblings got a divorce; Complaint went through DPO


Muhammad Sadaqat January 19, 2017
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MANSEHRA: A minor boy divorced his toddler wife after his sister was divorced by the brother of the toddler on the orders of a jirga, local rights activist and officials confirmed.

Noor Zaida Bibi, 20, was a member of the Basikhel tribe and the daughter of Zafarullah of Harnail Village. She had married Tajwar, the son of Khaperon of Peetao Asharay Village three years ago. The marriage was solemnised by a tribal jirga without any registration and involved a watta-satta exchange.

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In return, M* – only two years old at the time – the younger sister of Tajwar, was ‘married’ to I*, the seven-year-old son of Zafarullah and younger brother of Noor Zaida Bibi.

Since both were minors, the jirga decided that a formal wedding ceremony would be held when they were older. Noor Zaida’s wedding ceremony, however, was held the same day and she went to Karachi with her husband.

In early 2016, she was allowed to return to her father’s home after she complained about Tajwar’s behaviour. On January 16, 2017, she approached Zahid Khan, a rights activist from Torghar who is affiliated with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and sought his help in getting a divorce.

Zahid informed the Torghar Dispute Resolution Council (DRC) about the case and then approached the DPO Sardar. Through the jirga, it was decided that Tajwar would divorce Noor Zaida Bibi as she was unhappy living with him. Subsequently, it was decided that her brother I*, now 10, would divorce M*, now five.

The Jirga was  held in Judba at the home of Yaqub Khan and attended by tribal elders of the Basikhel tribe, Tajwar divorced Noor Zaida while I* divorced M*, Zahid told The Express Tribune on Thursday.

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The jirga members endorsed the divorce, and submitted a written record of the divorce to the office of DSP Yousuf and DPO Sardar. Some members of the DRC were also present in the jirga.

Torghar District Police Officer (DPO) Sardar Khan and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Judba Muhammad Yousuf also confirmed the report.

When approached for comment, DPO Sardar confirmed that the marriage I* and M* was a case of watta satta.

DRC Vice Chairman Abdul Majeed too confirmed the divorce of the minor, adding that it was nikah-e-badal (watta-satta) and that an agreement was submitted in writing to the DRC as well.

He said the culture of nikah-e-badal was common and that marriages were not registered since no nikah registrar had been appointed in the district till date. “I have written to the Torghar Deputy Commissioner and asked him to appoint a nikah registrar as we want legal records of marriages to be available,” he added.

No action has been taken against anyone for forcing two children to get married.

Zahid said that a Pakhtun culture is prevalent in Torghar under which marriages are still solemnised by tribal jirgas without proper legal registration. He said that over 90% of marriages in the region are unregistered, while most of the 10% that are legally documented had taken place outside of Torghar.

*Names of minors withheld

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2017.

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