In Punjab’s tribal areas, girls’ lives have become a toy in the hands of panchayats

Are tribal girls there to be given names at an early age, the boy to grow up to become a criminal and an advertiser, then to be forced into marriage by the tribe and the decisions of the girls’ lives to be made in the panchayat?”

These are the words of some burqa-wearing women belonging to the tribal area of Fazla Kach in Dera Ghazi Khan district, including Rukhsana Naz.

Rukhsana belongs to Jonglani, a branch of the Buzdar tribe living in Fazla Kutch. It is also the constituency of former Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Ahmed Khan Buzdar.

At the age of seven months, Rukhsana’s relationship was fixed with Zubair Siddique, a child of her tribe. Seeing Zubair’s behavior when he was young, Rukhsana started opposing this childhood relationship. The matter reached the tribal panchayat, which ordered Rukhsana’s marriage to Zubair anyway. As a last resort, Rukhsana has taken refuge in Darul Aman in Dera Ghazi Khan.

According to the police records, Rukhsana Naz filed an FIR on July 14, 2022, at Border Muldi Police Station (BMP), Fazla Kutch. In it, she has requested her father Ameer Hasan, and Zubair Siddique to provide protection, saying that both are threatening to kill her. They are under pressure that if they get married elsewhere, they will be killed. According to Rukhsana, she is suffering from severe mental agony.

The panchayat that ordered the marriage of Zubair without his consent included former Nazim Wadira Muhammad Ramzan, Jawansal Jonglani, and Sardar Rashid Khan Mithwani. In the petition, immediate and effective legal action should be taken against those who decided on outdated tribal customs. has been demanded.

According to Zulfiqar Baloch, a member of the Human Rights Commission in Dera Ghazi Khan, Rukhsana Naz had sent a request through WhatsApp to Faisal Tangwani, coordinator of the Human Rights Commission South Punjab, stating that she did not want to marry Zubair because he was a criminal. But “my father wants to ‘sell’ me his hand.”

The Commission, through Zulfiqar Baloch and with the help of the Taunsa Police, recovered Rukhsana from the house and admitted her to Dera Ghazi Khan Darul Aman as per her intention.

Rukhsana says that she can move to her parent’s house if she is guaranteed not to marry Zubair. However, several hurdles have been put in the way of her family accepting this demand. According to the tribal women, there is a lot of pressure on the family to get married.

Human rights activist Amna Zahra says that Rukhsana’s family is in a state of panic and the entire family is being threatened with serious consequences for refusing the marriage by Zubair’s family and the tribal branch. They are being told that they will also have to lose their native land. According to reports, Rukhsana’s father is also indebted to Zubair.

According to the police officers of police station BMP Fazla Kutch, Zubair is involved in the cases registered in different police stations in Balochistan.

Border Military Police Station Fazla Kachchha Haji Maqbool said that the BMP tried to arrest the accused Zubair Siddique but he got bail from the court before arresting him. According to him, they are trying to cancel the interim bail of the accused and there is a possibility of any progress in this regard soon.

Zubair Siddique and the tribesmen supporting him have demanded that the family either give risht or pay Rs 15 lakh as compensation as per regional customs. Also, in case of non-marriage, the family will have to leave their ancestral lands and migrate to the area.

Many tribal women of Fazla Kutch are not satisfied with the role of BMP. They say that the border military policemen should be made aware of the legislation against violence against women and officers should be appointed in the tribal area who are aware of human rights and take notice of their violations.

According to a report from the Human Rights Commission, serious violations of human rights have been observed in South Punjab. Especially in the tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur, ugly practices against women such as Karukari (Kala Kali) and Vini are still prevalent. The Border Militia Police is unable to help women in such cases. Due to the lack of proper documentation of women in these tribal areas, their political voice cannot be made.

According to Zulfiqar Baloch and Amna Zehra, many crimes against women are not reported, but the reports that reach them from different people show that the cases of black women, wini, sale of girls, and deprivation of property occur frequently. He said that the data of three or four such incidents has been collected in the last few weeks.

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