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Vani a social evil

By Anwar Hashmi / Rifat Mushtaq Koukab

Man is conquering the world. He is near to erect his flag on the peak of the discoveries pillar but ironically he had lost his conscious in the dark dirty caves. In this modern and civilized world some incidents proves that we are still living in cave age or before. The most ferrous thing is this many and more NGOs with the name of human rights and women rights have their vast networking through out the world. What happened? Problems get stronger then ever. No relief neither healing nor any satisfaction for the victims.NGOs just pinpoint the problems, raise the funds and left the wound without operating.

Such a horrible and terrible incident flashed on national &international media and fists the hearts. Eight innocent girls have been married as “Vani”in Mianwali one of them is just one and half year old. Women are being molested in Pakistan with the name of cultural devices. Before Dec2002 ‘karokari’ or ‘kala kali’, ‘honour killing’, “Nikah” with Quran”, “watasata” were the critical issues.

HRCP and different NGOS were working to abolish this inhuman and stupid custom. That were creating serious disorder in the society and definitely spoiling women life. Initially these customs were the part of tribal areas and interior Sindh.where still women are taken as the property of men and they can treat them as they wish. Irony of fate Pakistan who was already black listed for human rights now the incidents in Meer wala and Mianwali have brought shame to Pakistan and hit world headlines.’Vani’ has become as a social norm in Mianwali and neighbouring areas. According to this tradition women are given in ‘Nikah’ to resolve different kinds of disputes. These marriages are known as ‘Vani’, ‘Sakh’, ‘Sawara’ and ‘Sharam’with the difference of languages in different areas.

Tradition of Vani is an old age tradition. This cruel unislamic inhuman tradition started almost 400 years ago when two ‘Pathan’ tribes of Mianwali fought a bloody war against each other. During this bloody period round about 800 people were murdered. At that time NAWAB OF TANK tried to resolve this tension. He called the “GIRGA” who decided that girls are given as QISAS. They considered it the only way to resolve this dispute and both families turned into a Biradri.

Later on this decision became a custom which passed over generation to generation. Another major example of ‘Vani’ took place after four decades in 1964.When Mr& Mrs. Rustam Khan of Shahba wala. Jirga on the will of victim party demanded 40 proposals for their males in the compensation. Convict admit their decision just to save murders as they were the sons of family. At the time of reconciliation successor demanded for only 20 girls leaving other 20 for family marriages. But at that time these 20 girls were given into Nikah to young boys and sent with them.

With the passage of four decades this tradition has became an evil of the society. This inhuman tradition is practised in different areas of Sindh, Baluchistan and Sarhad and known with the difference of names. In these areas it called as Sawara which is arrived from the Persian language it stands of or women one the worse back travelling alone to the enemy camp. In these areas women are commonly being used as a bargain commodity to compensate capital offences or homicide crimes done by their family members. But this inhuman custom can be observed in its intense form in Punjab especially in Mianwali with the name of ‘Vani’. ‘Vani’ is a Pashto word derived from vanay which stands for blood. This inhuman and horrible custom was very common in Pashtoon families. Like other traditions the genesis of this custom is also obscure but it can safely be assumed that it developed as a gesture of good will to end blood feuds.

When compromise is sought between two belligerent tribes this tradition is followed so as to avoid further bloodshed. Usually vani is affected in the cases of murder and kidnapping of womenfolk. When murder or kidnapping of a girl comes up before a jirga for a solution, the jirga indicts the offender and announces punishment. In a murder case, punishments are either revenge i.e. blood for blood or blood money or vani.

The nearest virgin girl daughter, sister, etc. of the offender is given over to the aggrieved family. When deciding the conditions of vani a number of factors are taken into account, including the number of murders and length of the disputes between the two families, as well as the power balance between them. Since it is a forced marriage between the enemies, there is no wedding ceremony. The girl is made to ride a donkey, pony or horse and third party drives that animal to the other side.

The receiving family takes over the girl as a punishment to the enemy. But the main sufferer in such a case is the vani. In tribal society, the woman is placed in a strange position. She is considered property of man. The marriage is arranged for a price of the bride called walwar.

In case of vani, the affected family loses promising amount of money. Therefore, it is considered a severe punishment. Unfortunately, the main sufferer is the innocent and voiceless girl. Mianwali district is regarded as a strange land where cruel barbaric system is still being followed. Not only grown up women infant girls but also expect girls are being frequently handed over to rivals for the compensation of crimes done by their fathers and mothers.

This district earned a world wide condemnation when four convicts, in order to save their necks from the gallows, gave away their eight girls as Vani to the rival family. These girls were trapped emotionally to slaughter their lives for their fathers and brothers. No one bothered to take their opinion. They were just informally informed. These oppressed women have not any option. If some one dares to disobey the decision, she was tortured mentally and physically.

When these women are being married there was a scene of mourn. These silent victims of male oppression handed over to the victims. These poor women slaughter their wishes and their whole life for the sack of their selfish so called ‘Gharate maand’ (respect full) male family members. Who at the time of crime shows their Man chauvinism without thinking about their poor sisters and daughters? Victim of vani faced the anger of revenge and abuses till the death. Their lives become like a fish out of water.

This is the 21st century, developed, civilized, educated and sophisticated where a lot of people still behaved as a cave or wild man. They disgraced woman and considered them as a commodity by snatching their basic rights. There are hundreds of Vani stories over here which were never published in press. But a major incident of eight vani girls attracted whole world’s attention. These girls were given as Vani in the compensation of crimes.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday took notice of the reported compromise between two parties in Mianwali about the pardoning of four convicts, and directed the session’s judge to submit a report in this regard within three days. Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad, in his order, ruled: "The compromise deal as reported in the press, prima facie, appears to have been reached in violation of the law of the land and against the norms of the civilized world".

The chief justice took the suo motu notice after reading a news item in Dawn's issue of July 24 headlined "Girls & gold save four from gallows". The report said the family of Sardar Khan, Mohammad Akram Khan, Mohammad Ashraf Khan and Asmatullah Khan, who were awarded death in a double murder case by the session’s judge of Mianwali, had struck a deal.

It said that after the rejection of the appeals by the superior courts, and the mercy petition of the convicts by the president of Pakistan, the parties entered into a compromise deal with the help of prominent people of the area, like Malik Asad of Kalabagh, whereby the accused party agreed to pay Rs8 million as compensation, besides giving the hands of eight unmarried girls
to the men of the complainant side.

The Chief Justice directed the office to register it as a suo motu case and called report from the session’s judge of Mianwali within three days. Reuters adds: The apex court, in a statement, told the police to investigate the deal. Both parties came to the court with eighth vani girls and look one of them was just one and half years old Azra was sleeping in his father’s lape.unconcious from his fate this poor girl was looking at huge gathering around her. The 18-year-old student, one of the six girls of Abbakhel village rescued by the administration from the age-old 'vani' tradition, demanded to eradicate social malaise.

Talking to provincial law minister Rana Ijaz Ahmad, Waziraan Khatoon, the F.A student, said she had agreed to marry Ata Muhammad, nearly 80, just to save the life of her father and other accused. Hailing the role of the government, she said the Punjab governor had intervened timely and set precedence by saving the girls from becoming scapegoats. The girl was all praise for the press which, she said, played its best role in giving the issue its due. The girl requested the minister to help reduce the Diyat of Rs8 million as the family had become poor after selling their lands and valuables. The law minister expressed his inability to resolve the monetary strife, claiming the matter had already been settled. When contacted, the girl's mother Sardaran Khatoon, lying on bed due to paralysis, told this correspondent that she was elated at seeing her daughter rescued. She said she made the decision with a heavy heart only to save lives of her husband and others. "After all, no mother could take such a decision willingly," said the relieved mother.

Meanwhile, the Abbakhel village, some 12km from here on the Mianwali-Talagang Road, wore a happy look on that day. The government high-ups, rights activists and newsmen came in hordes and smelt an air of relief. Later talking to newsmen, the law minister said the government was mulling over making a law for the eradication of the 'Vani' tradition. Grooms, Ata Mohammad Khan, 80, and Mehr Khan, 55, were found missing when the newsmen tried to take their version. One of the convict brothers, whose two minor daughters, Iqra and Ifra, were among the girls to be handed over as compensation told, "Although, I dislike the tradition, I took the decision to save my dear ones.

Complainant Abdullah Khan, son of slain Noor Khan, told , that he had confirmed the pardon of the four accused after getting Rs8 million Diyat. He said his camp had forgiven the six girls. To a question, he said his uncle Ata Muhammad Khan was a 'strict man' and he made such demands (for girls) to make life tough for the arbitrators. On the accused party's request, he claimed they accepted Rs8 million and 12 girls as 'Vani.' He claimed he forgave his share of six girls but his uncle insisted on getting girls. On the demand and then getting high compensation which is against the tradition of the area, he claimed they had done all to uproot the old enmity and to become brothers again.

He said he had become penniless after spending Rs5 to 6 million for the murder case pending with the court for the last 18 years, adding the compensation money would come in handy for him in the hour of trial, he claimed. On the barbaric tradition, Abdullah said it had turned a number of rivalries into blood relations. He claimed the marriage of two girls was a mismatch. However, he said the chapter was now closed once and for all. A majority of the people in the village called for a permanent end to the tradition. Law Minister announced for the legislation against this cruel tradition but this was just a political slogan. People of Mianwali and the administration forget. Govt of Punjab also put this file in their cabinets.

After some days another graduate girl was married as Vani with 70 years old Rahri Ban. But she denied being the victim of Vani so her parents have to pay 3 lacks and she was divorced.

Another case of Vani was appeared in Chandni Wanphajran. Only six years old girl was given as Vani in Hadood Ordinance Case. But the press exposed this inhuman and unjust practice and forced the both the parties to with draw.

National judicial policy making committee called upon a panel of judges and decided to take speedy and strict action against this inhuman custom. But the Vani cases are frequently occurring in the area.

Soon after the meeting of ‘Judicial policy making committee’ two sisters were slaughters under ‘Vani’in Tolamangi kalabagh.Jahangir khan raped a girl Naseem Bibi who get pragnent.The Parents of the girls called Panchayt of respected people of the area. In that panchayt it was decided that the victim girl got married with jhangir.And his two sisters Noor shah Bibi (17year old) and Samiara Bibi (8 years old) were given to Naseem Bibi’s Brothers Nazar deen (20years old) and Mohammed Amjad Khan (10 years old) with 60 thousands Rs. Both the girls denied being the victim of ‘Vani’. But they were handed over according to the decision.

Mianwali is an area which badly known as ‘the place of crimes against women’. On the 6th of June 18, 2004 seven years old girl slaughter as ‘Vani’. Panchayate handed over parveen daughter of Ather khan of Daud Khail as her 10 year old brother was the accused of illicit act with 7 years old Kafyet ullah. According to the decision of Panchayt a student of Jamia Masjid Anwar ul Quran held “shrie’ Nikah” of 7 years old parveen and 10 years old Kafyet ullah. Prveen’s father begged for her daughter’s life. He repeatedly visits to Ziaullah to say sorry with the Quran in his hand. He also offered 1’ lack and 1 and half canal land but Zia ullah behaved in a very cruel manner.

In chahmiana two sisters were grew older being ‘Vani’. It was the example of man chauvinism that these girls were given in ‘Nikah of two 60 and 70 years old men. But they refused to take these girls with them because of the age of both men. At this time Allah Wadya is 70 years old whether his wife is 35 years old and still in her parents home. While 15 years old wilayat Khtoon got freedom after the death of 70 years old Muhammed Zaman.Both the sisters are paying the price of their brother’s crimes. These poor girls are waiting for another Muhammed bin Qasim which looks very difficult in this senseless and selfish society.

Three other major cases of vani came into the notice of Governor Punjab, Chief Minister and the chief justice Lahore high court by Karwan community development organization director in a faxed massage .they demanded probe into following cases. In the first case, one Kausar Parveen, 20, of village daliliwala in spite of her huge cries is being handed over to her rivals as ‘vani’ against her will. She was four years old when she was married to a boy of the rival family as compensation for the murder committed by her father. After sixteen years of her education she refused to be the second wife of her shepherd husband.

On the appeal of Kausar parveen the government helped her only to extent that that she was recovered .Her statement was recorded by the court and her parents were advised to file a suit for the cancellation of the ‘Nikah’.The case was not filed but ,a local panchyat decided to hand over the girl to her child hood spouse. In the second case, a panchyat at Dauad khail decided that a 9 years old girl be married to the younger brother of the victim of someday committed by her brother. In the third incident, Aslam Khan a resident of Daud khel brought a young girl from a Pashto speaking family living in hilly areas of Shaker dara after solemnizing ‘Nikah’ with her. But later on he handed over the girl to a deaf dumb and blind man for 70,000.thgese are the cases under the consideration of the administration but there is no any positive action has been taken out.

Another terrible incident of ‘Vani’, of two sisters was stopped by the press. The so-called husbands, Shafa ullah and Zia ullah on Thursday June divorced their wives in the court.14 years old Rehana and 16 years old Rukhsana were married with these two brothers. Shafa ullah alleged in panchayet decision that Mumtaz, the only brothers of two sisters, had developed illicit relation with her wife.

The police with the help of news reporters got their recorded statements .and an NGO filed a suit in the civil court for the cancellations of the ‘Nikah’.But before the decision of the court the Nazim intervene and husband lastly divorced the girls. Similar cases are frequently occurring in the Area. Our politicians, including ministers, keep on issuing statements that a stringent law would be introduced to curb this gruesome practice. But it is pity that law has been so far been craved out to eliminate this custom from this soil. The most reluctant example is that Bill which was presented in the national Assembly by the Mehnaz Rafi M.N.A.

But that bill is still facing ignorance in the Assembly where a big majority of women are representing women. Ironically Prime Minister Mir Zafer ullah jamali said in a meeting with women that he wants to modify Hadood Ordinance and the law of ‘Honor killing’ but he is still ignoring the ‘vani cases’. Which is urgently needed a law. Like many other traditions and cultures all over the world, the Vani tradition also could hardly stand the test of time. It gave way to corrupt practices and was massively misused by the people with ulterior motives.

Much of the good claimed in this tradition was lost. Its rare application was turned into a fashion of the day and in each and every murder case Vani was being applied which consequently made it a horrible practice of violation of rights of innocent women. So much so that the newly-born baby girls were being sacrificed at the altar of Vani to save some grown-ups of the tribe from the murderous onslaught of the other tribesmen who were adept at wreaking vengeance.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Gone are the days when irrational cultural traditions used to sway the lives of innocent and illiterate common people. \medieval social psychology has been rendered obsolete. Rationality is the order of the day of the present world. Men living on this planet are today more aware of their rights and duties. Democratic norms have brought about a revolution in the social psyche of the people.

Women have attained a respectable place altogether with greater awareness of their position and potentialities. They are no more treated as cattle or a commodity to be bargained. In the backdrop of this modern outlook, all those sticking to the irrational old cultures and traditions would find themselves at a loss while competing with the modern world. The modern man will always look askance at those who sacrifice their women under the garb of Vani to save men from the vengeance of the enemy.

Giving women as Vani for marriage purposes to the enemy to pacify vengeance of the enemy so that the enemy may forgive the murder of its dear one is also against the teachings of Islam. Islam categorically forbids all marriages made under any kind of compulsion. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has at many instances dissolved such marriages. These marriages were known as ‘Sabaya’ in the days of Jahiliya (ignorance). To sum up, today the custom of Vani is doing no good but casting aspersions on the noble and dignified heritage of the Pushtoon culture, which denotes courage, honour, hospitality and peaceful coexistence.

Statement of National judicial policy making committee

National judicial policy making committee held a meeting in which they announced that ‘bargain over women in the case of compromises under Vani is against Islamic values. Chief justice of Pakistan Sh.Riaz Ahmed presided over the meeting which was held 21st Dec 2002.Justice Fazal elahi Khan, chief justice Federal sharai court, justice Raja fiaz Ahmed, Chief justice Baluchistan high court Justice Iftikhar Hussain chudri, Chief justice Lahore high court justice shakir ullah Jan chief justice Peshawar High court, Justice Sabih ud din senior judge Sindh High court and committee secretary Dr.Faqir Hussain participated in the Panel. They noticed the ‘Vani’ and announced this is entirely against Islamic Laws because a marriage demands the will of both sides. Committee announced that section 310and 338e (Pakistan panel code) is against the bargaining of women to reconcile the dispute especially such a woman who was giving under a compromise. Panel bound all chief justices are bound to issued notice to all ‘Trial courts’ and ‘Appealet courts’ to strictly noticed Vani cases. They are not allowed to make any compromise in this course so that women should be saving to be given as ‘Vani’.

Seeking Shelter behind Vani

Obvious outcomes of such Jirgas are people who have even played with someone‘s honour are acquitted by virtue of ‘Vani’. The culprit unable to face the consequences of his misdeed valiantly tries to seek shelter behind his sister or daughter. Thus, undeserving members of Jirga sacrifice an innocent girl using ‘Vani’ to save the culprit. Here ‘Vani’ no longer remains a tradition, but becomes a disgrace to Pushtoon culture.

International Law and Sawara and Vani: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.

The practice of Swara is in direct conflict with the Article 1 of UDHR, which regards all human being free by birth and equal in dignity and rights. Moreover, Swara disregards an individual’s ability to reason as Swara girls are given over to the rival party without seeking her consent. Thus it is morally binding upon all the individuals to give due respect to UDHR. As far as Swara is concerned it is totally contrary to the norms of UDHR.

Article.16: Men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to form a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
“Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.

The Article 16 of UDHR grants the right of marrying by one’s won choice to each and every individual (i.e. man and woman both) without any discrimination of race, nationality and religion. Whereas in Swara, neither the man’s nor the women’s consent is asked for the purpose of marriage. Both of them are victims. The man has to accept her to end the existing enmity. So is the case with the women. More agonizing is the fact that these ill-fated individuals cannot dissolve their marriage in any case, whether they are living together or not. In this regard the true story of Feroz Khan included in this research thesis is a very good example.

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW):

Article.16: States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against woman in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equally of men and women:

1- The same right to enter into marriage;
2- The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
3- The same right and responsibilities during marriage and its dissolution;
Pakistan is a party to the CEDAW which categorically states that consent of individuals is obligatory of the marriage purpose. [Ref Article 16, Sub clause (a), (b), (c)]. It is pertinent to mention that the consent of the individual should be “full and free” as stated in sub-clause (b) of Article 16. But pathetically there is no concept of consent or individual’s will in the Swara practice. In many cases, the girl to be given over is a minor, which is a gross violation of fundamental HRs.

Human Rights and Vani’s Practice

This is concept of ‘Vani’ nowadays is criticized by the human rights activists, calling it a brutal practice targeted against the women of the ‘Pushtoon’ society. The women rights activists are of the opinion that practice of ‘Vani’ could be misused, and always the behaviour of the aggrieved family with the girl of the killer family remains harsh. Therefore, the Human Rights activists oppose ‘Vani’.
‘Vani’ is an inhuman custom that violates the fundamental human rights of women Defended on the premise that it is a way of resolving disputes, ‘Vani’ means giving a woman to an enemy’s family as part of settlement of a feud. It often involves extreme cruelty towards women, treating them as a property that is used to settle disputes.

Options for ‘Vani’

The practice of ‘Vani’ is being increasingly regarded as unacceptable to most of the communities, perhaps recognizing the cruelty involved thereof. ‘Vani’ is steadily being replaced by settlements paid in cash and land.


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