The girls, aged between four and 16 — were given in Vani (forced marriage) by a tribal jirga (council of elders) which arbitrated a five-month-old blood feud between the Baloch tribes of Masoori and Shahwani Masoori. Both are sub-clans of the Bugti tribe.
Mir Tariq Masoori Bugti, a lawmaker in the Balochistan Assembly, is said to have conducted the jirga, which was attended by tribal elders and notable locals, in the Baikar area of Phelawagh.
Due to conflicting statements, the date of the Jirga is still not clear. Two tribal elders, however, told the BBC Urdu Service that it was either convened on September 3 or 4.
According to them, Masoori tribesman Roshan Khan had murdered Mira Khan, a Shahani Masoori tribesman. The jirga declared Roshan Khan guilty and ruled that his tribe give 13 girls in Vani to the offended family besides an Rs3 million (USD 31,470) fine.
Vani is a tribal custom in which girls are forcibly married off to settle tribal feuds.
A senior official based in Dera Bugti confirmed the girls were bartered and that they were aged between four and 16.
Mir Sarfraz Khan Masoori Bugti, a cousin of Mir Tariq, also concurred that the lawmaker convened the jirga and that the girls given in Vani were less than 16 years of age.
Condemning the morbid tradition, Mir Sarfraz called upon the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the incident.
According to Ghulam Nabi Shahani, an elder of the Shahani Masoori Bugti tribe, several participants of the jirga have also confirmed the harrowing episode.
Mir Tariq, however, has denied conducting any jirga despite reports that the first tranche of the Rs3million fine has already been paid to the offended party.
Interestingly, Mir Tariq defended the jirga system’s reconciliatory powers. According to him, it helps resolve local feuds and maintain peace and harmony in the society.
Following media reports, Dera Bugti’s Assistant Commissioner Qasim Naveed Bugti formed an inquiry committee headed by Tehsildar Atta Muhammad to further probe the matter.