A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Noor Mohammad Meskenzai, observed that the tradition of giving away a minor girl to settle disputes was against the teachings of Islam, Malik Asad reports for Dawn.

Taking up a petition filed by Sakeena Bibi, the bench held that Ulema had come to an agreement that vani, or swara, was against the teachings of Islam.

Swara is a tradition where girls, often minors, are given for marriage or servitude to a distressed family as compensation to solve disputes, often murder. It is a punishment decided by a jirga (group of tribal elders).


The petitioner challenged the custom of vani for many reasons. According to the petition, the tradition which is being practiced in jirgas and panchayats seizes the fundamental rights of a woman or minor girl. The petitioner requested the court to declare this custom as illegal.

Dr Mohammad Aslam Khaki, Jurist Consult at FSC, said vani violated at least four basic rights. According to him, since the girl is offered by the accused family, she in most of the cases is not provided with even basic facilities, hence subjected to discrimination.

Secondly, she is wedded to a man without her consent. Thirdly, she is not entitled to dower, and fourthly, she cannot file legal suit for khula — dissolution of marriage.

According to Dr Khaki, the legitimate way to settle a murder is payment of diyat or blood money, which is allowed in Islam. However, traditional forums especially in rural areas consider vani or swara as a legitimate way to settle disputes. But Ulema do not accept the practice as Islamic.