A tribal council allegedly chaired by a Pakistani lawmaker decided to barter 13 minor girls in marriage to settle a dispute between two clans, prompting the Supreme Court on Tuesday to take action against those responsible.
The jirga or council, allegedly presided over by lawmaker Mir Tariq Masuri in Dera Bugti district of Balochistan in August, decided to give away 13 girls in marriage under the controversial vani custom to resolve a dispute between two tribal groups.
A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, which is hearing cases in the Balochistan capital of Quetta, took suo motu notice of the incident on Tuesday and directed officials to take action against those responsible.
The bench has summoned Masuri and other members of the jirga to appear in court on Wednesday.
The dispute centred around the murder of a member of one tribal group by people from another clan. The council also imposed a fine of Rs 3 million on tribesmen involved in the dispute.
However, Masuri, a member of the Balochistan Assembly, denied chairing any meeting of the council. Masuri told the The Dawn daily that no such jirga was held in Dera Bugti.
He further claimed that he had been away from Dera Bugti for the past three weeks.
A senior official in Dera Bugti confirmed that the girls -- aged between four and 16 years -- were "bartered" to end the dispute.
Vani is a controversial custom whereby girls, including minors, are given away in marriage to settle tribal disputes.
Though the custom is illegal, it continues to be practiced by tribes in northwest and southwest Pakistan.