Six granted bail in Swara case
PESHAWAR, Aug 17: The Peshawar High Court on Friday granted bail to six people, including some jirga members, who were charged with handing over a minor girl to a rival group to settle a dispute about three years ago.
The accused claimed that the law banning the practice of Swara had not been introduced when the incident took place and the Constitution provided protection against retrospective punishment.
Justice Raj Mohammad Khan ordered that the six petitioners should be released after furnishing two sureties, each of Rs100,000. The applicants included Jaffar Khan, paternal uncle of the eight-year-old girl Fahmeeda, who was instrumental in the deal of 2004 because he was facing a murder charge. The other accused were Sabdar Mullah, Raheem Gul, Bacha Gul, Fazal Subhan and Hakim Wali.
Through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2005 (Act No 1 of 2005), parliament had made a penal offence the handing over of girls to rival groups for settling disputes. Section 310-A was inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code which provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years for the offence of giving away girls for resolving disputes. The act appeared in the official gazette on Jan 11, 2005.
The accused belong to Lower Dir district’s Atan Dara area. According to the prosecution, Jaffar Khan was charged with the murder of a member of the rival group on April 30, 1994. He was later arrested by police.
On Oct 14, 2004, a ‘jirga’ decided that the eight-year-old daughter of Zermula Khan should be married off to Sheerinzada, a 10-year-old son of Bacha Gul who was one of the petitioners.
The Nikah of the two was held and the girl was taken away from her parents’ house. After some time, her father approached the court of Dir Zila Qazi under section 22-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, requesting it to order registration of an FIR against the accused, including the jirga members.
He said the jirga’s decision was an unjust one because the accused Jaffar had two daughters but the jirga ordered that he hand over his daughter to the rival group. He said he had protested against the decision, but to no avail.
The court on June 22, 2007, ordered the arrest of the accused and registration of an FIR against them under section 310-A and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The court also dismissed their bail petition following which they moved the high court.
Abdul Lateef Afridi appeared for the petitioners. He contended that under Article 12 of the Constitution, a person could not be punished for an act that was not punishable by law when it was committed.