PAKISTAN: Sale of girls and Shariah movement operating side by side
According to the journalists in Pakistan, the implementation of religious laws in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) could be linked to the recent increase in the abduction and rape of young girls. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information concerning the case of at least half a dozen girls, aged between 10 and 14, who have been abducted from areas near the Afghanistan border in the recent months.
The persons found in suspicious circumstances, along with the girls who were formerly reported to have been missing, include an army personal and a police constable. When questioned, these two government officers claimed that they have married the minors. The Shariah law, as interpreted and practiced by the Taliban in the region, is posed as an excuse for the abduction and for marring the minors.
The fundamentalist view of some factions within the Muslim community regarding women is often used as bedrock for entertaining child marriage. In practice, this leads to the sale of children between families, their abduction and rape. Most of these crimes are either later legitimised under the Taliban's interpretation of the Shariah or the voices of protest suppressed by threat of reprisal. The mistrust of a civilised legal framework is entertained and promoted by those who exploit the misinterpretation of the Shariah. Towards this end, these criminals also prevent any form of investigation or prosecution of crimes, irrespective of its nature in the region.
In a case reported in February by journalist Javed Aziz Khan, published in TheNews International, a 14-year-old girl, Ruqayya, from New Jalozai near Cherat Cantonment was abducted from a public road in Nowshera district. The girl was reportedly on her way to the school. The family lodged an FIR (first information report; necessary for police investigations) at the Pabbi Police Station. Though two suspects were arrested, the girl was not located. The family eventually found her in the custody of a Pakistani soldier, 1000 km away in Rajanpur, Punjab province.
The family claims that the soldier first admitted purchasing the girl from a kidnapper; though later he argued that Ruqayya had willingly married him at a local court. He prevented the girl from reuniting with her family. The family's efforts to gain access to her have been unsuccessful so far. They also claim that Ruqayya's cousin, Gulnaz, who is 13-year-old, was also kidnapped late last year. She was found six weeks later in a brothel in the company of a police constable. The officer claimed that he had purchased the girl from another person.
In this instance too the family has been reluctant to press any criminal charges. Sources close to the family claim that the girl was sold at a far away place from her home, though she was later spotted in Punjab. Four more girls were abducted from the same area within the past few months.
Abduction of minors was relatively rare in the region. After the forceful introduction of fundamentalist religious laws at the behest of the Taliban, crimes committed against girls, particularly abduction, sale, rape and marriage have increased alarmingly. This has demoralised the society further and is one of the reasons, in addition to the on going war, for the people to flee from the region.