Working around ‘wani’


Express July 18, 2010

CHINIOT: A local panchayat recently declared an eight-year-old girl and her mother ‘Wani’ in Chiniot.

Police officials recovered the two women from the custody of Rana Basharat, a local village land lord and registered a case against the culprit.

Zafar a resident of a Chinioti village fell in love with Laila from the same village a year ago, the couple had been trying to get their families to agree to a marriage but both families violently opposed the match. Recently, the couple ran away and got married. “They knew that they would find no support for their situation in the village so they decided to leave the area, they didn’t give anyone their contact. They wanted to disappear,” said Nageen, Laila’s friend and neighbor.

Laila’s family called a panchayat, which decided to declare Zafar’s mother Rasoola Bibi (67) and sister Umm-e-Farwa (8) ‘Wani’ and forced them to sign papers on gunpoint. “The panchayat decision was very shocking because a married woman has never before been given in ‘wani’ but the Panchayat insisted that both mother and daughter would remain in one of the family member’s custody, till Zafar came and reclaimed them,” a local, Shahid said. “Wani” is a custom where in a disagreement between two families, the women of the offending parties family are given in payment to the other family.

The panchayat also decided that Rasoola Bibi and Umme-e-Farwa would remain in the custody of Laila’s family until Zafar handed Laila over to her family. Zafar’s mother and sister would remain in the custody of Rana Basharat, a member of Laila’s family.

DPO Chiniot Fiyaz Ahmed received a tip off regarding the situation from a local NGO and raided Rana Basharat’s house. “We found both Rasoola Bibi and Umme Farwa in a locked room, they hadn’t been fed in almost two days,” Ahmed said. Police officials said that Umm-e-Farwa was being forcefully wed to a 65-year-old man, when they broke up the proceedings.

The incident took place five days ago, on July 13 but despite five days having passed the family did not hear back from Zafar or Laila. The police arrived on the scene yesterday, July 17, 2010 and recovered Zafar’s mother and sister.

“The panchayat refused to hand over the girl or her mother and we interrogated them about the decision and how they could give away a married woman in wani,” police official Saqib said. “They told us that the ‘nature of the crime’ was such that it justified a harsh punishment. The panchayat members said that Rasoola Bibi was not harmed and they were simply being held until Laila was returned to her home and family,” he said.

A local NGO brought the incident to the notice of DPO Ahmed, who took immediate action and recovered the abducted girl and women from the custody of Laila’s family, police has also filed a case against several panchayat members under section 506,365/343 and 148/149.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2010.

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