IMG_8063An 18-year-old Abida Bibi daughter of Aman Gull, a resident of Drazanda Tehsil, Froteir Region-Dera Ismail Khan, KP province, on May 2, 2014 along with other women had gone out to collect fire wood when the accused Mandoz Khan and Safar Gul tried to kidnap her. Abida and other women raised a hue and cry and put up a resistance forcing the accused t flee the scene. Later the same day the accused fired outside the main mosque announcing to all and sundry that Abida is hereby engaged to Mandoz khan and that no one should dare marry her.

The family of the accused also made an open declaration of taking Abida’s hand in marriage with Mandoz Khan against the will of victim and her parents. This tradition of forcing a girl to marriage is called “Ghag” and is criminalized by the law “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elimination of Custom of Ghag Act, 2013”. However ironically this law is not applicable in the Frontier Region where the tradition is most prevalent and had ruined the lives of many innocent girls.
The victim’s family was forced to flee move from their native town to their uncle’s home in far village and they are hiding from the accused family to save their daughter.

Several death threats have been received by the family from the accused and demand for handing over the girl to them. The family and girl have been dishonored and it has become extremely difficult for them to marry the victim to someone of their choice.

For the protection of the family from accused and proceeding the case, three applications have been submitted to the Assistant Political Agents of Dera Ismail Khan who is the relevant law enforcement authority on dates, January 07, 2016, February 09, 2016, and April 04, 2016, respectively but no response have been received till date.

In terms of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elimination of Custom of Ghag Act, 2013 ’Ghag” means a custom, usage, tradition or practice whereby a person forcibly demands or claims the hand of a woman, without her own or her parents’ or wali’s will and free consent, by making an open declaration either by words spoken or written or by visible representation or by an imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, in a locality or before public in general that the woman shall stand engaged to him or any other particular man and that no other man shall make a marriage proposal to her or marry her, threatening her parents and other relatives to refrain from giving her hand in marriage to any other person.

For centuries, young girls in the northwestern tribes have shuddered at the word ‘Ghag’. A tribal leader, or an influential enemy of their fathers, may set his eyes upon them and make a silent claim of marriage – which neither their tears, nor their families’ pleas could undo. This resolve of marriage, known as ‘Ghag’ is binding upon the chosen girl and her family, lest she opts to remain unmarried all her life. The local jirga( tribal council of elders) also add insult to injury by ordering the family of victim to pay hefty compensation if they refused to marry off their daughter to the ‘Ghag’ claimant.

As the law against Ghag is not applicable in the FATA region the women and the families are left without any legal redressal. They cannot report the incident of Ghag in any part of the KPK province as the jurisdiction of the courts and police station is limited outside the tribal regions. The victim families have no other option but to flee and live under constant threat in other regions of the country. Many resign to their fate and marry their claimant against their will or commit suicide as a last resort.

An Assistant Political Agent (APA) is the only political agent who can intervene to exert writ of the state however most often APA does not intervene for fear of backlash from the tribal influentials.

Due to lack of complaint mechanism, no data is available on the number of Ghag victims in FATA. In the year 2015, 12 Ghag victims have committed suicide after being disheartened by the lack of justice. In 2013 Razia from Kurram Agency who has been victim of the custom of the Ghag ended her life when the man claiming her in Ghag refused to back off from his claim even though her parents refused to marry her off to him.

17 Years Gulmena from Khyber Agency of FATA also committed suicide after her father has decided to give her hand in marriage to the Ghag claimant as he was poor and was not able to fight for his daughter. In another case 9 years old Sumaria also became a victim of the barbarian custom as when she was born her neighbor 43 years of Gul Hassan fired in front of her house to declare that Sumaira will be his wife when she will reach puberty.