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Pakistan Arrests Father Over 'Planned Sale' Of Daughter Into Prostitution

Nushin, a 12-year-old Pakistani girl whose father allegedly tried to sell her into prostitution.
Nushin, a 12-year-old Pakistani girl whose father allegedly tried to sell her into prostitution.

Police in Pakistan have arrested a man for arranging to sell his 12-year-old daughter into prostitution in a case that highlights the dramatic abuses inflicted on women and children in some segments of society.

RFE/RL interviews with the intended victim, Nushin, and a brother suggest that Adalat Khan, from Pakistan's tribally dominated northwestern region, has already profited from the sale of at least two other daughters and their mother into lives of servitude or worse.

Payoffs have purportedly ranged from a few hundred dollars to a foreign visa and, in this latest case, 200,000 rupees ($1,900), roughly equal to a manual laborer's annual wage.

The father, who is in custody, acknowledges handing over two of his daughters in the past but insists that he merely hoped to give away Nushin in the "name of God."

Pakistani authorities have waged public battles to crack down on the sale and trafficking of young people -- particularly girls -- as well as the persistent problem of child marriage.

But women and girls there continue to suffer disproportionately from abuse, and efforts to harshen punishments for marrying off underage girls or treating them transactionally has been met with opposition from religious groups and other conservative, male-dominated circles.

Treated Like Chattel

Pakistani police arrested Khan on October 26 after raiding his home in the village of Sar Dheri, near the city of Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Police allege that Khan had agreed, via a broker, to sell Nushin for 200,000 rupees to two men from Punjab Province hundreds of kilometers to the southeast.

Imran Khan, Sar Dheri's police chief, says Khan has been charged with arranging the sale of a minor for the purposes of prostitution under Pakistan's penal code. The two intended buyers and a broker -- said to be a woman in her 70s -- have been charged with trying to buy a minor for the purposes of prostitution.

Each of the suspects could face up to 25 years in prison, if found guilty.

Nushin, who has been placed along with her brother under police protection, tells RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that her father previously sold her mother and two older sisters.

"I already lost my mother and two sisters," she says, shakily fighting to hold back tears. "Now he tried to sell me to two Punjabi men. I don't know what they would have done with me."

WATCH: Pakistani Girl Escapes Planned 'Sale' By Father

Twelve-Year-Old Pakistani Girl Escapes Planned 'Sale' By Father
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In Pakistan, underage girls who are sold off by their families frequently end up as sex slaves, servants, or wives to wealthy men in communities where it is common for men to have several wives.

Child marriage is banned under Pakistani law. Girls may legally marry at 16, while boys must wait until they are 18.

But it is common in this deeply conservative country for younger girls to be married off by their families irrespective of their personal wishes.

Nushin says she shared her suspicions with her 18-year-old brother, Rezwanullah, who tipped off police about his father's plans.

"First he sold my mother, and then my two sisters," Rezwanullah says, adding that he was very young at the time. He says he has little recollection of them and does not know their whereabouts.

"My sister informed me that my father was going to sell her," Rezwanullah says, "so I took her away and we ran away to our aunt's house."

His father came to his aunt's home to take Nushin, he says, so he summoned the police.

Persistent Problem

There are no reliable statistics on child marriages in Pakistan, as few cases are reported to the police and the government does not track such figures.

But according to UNICEF's State of the World's Children Report 2014, seven percent of Pakistani girls are married under the age of 15.

According to figures from Save the Children, an international children's charity, more than 40 percent of Pakistani brides are under 18 and eight percent of adolescent married women are already mothers by the age of 15-19.

Khan admits to receiving money and favors in connection with the handover of two older daughters.

"My eldest daughter was sold by Khatoon" -- the suspected go-between in the current case -- "for 30,000 rupees," or nearly $300 at current rates, says Khan. "I gave away my other daughter, named Guldasta, after her [future] husband provided me with a visa."

Khan says he received a visa to Saudi Arabia, where he spent around two years working before returning to Pakistan.

Police accuse Khatoon of arranging for Nushin to be sold, and say she received 70,000 rupees from the prospective buyers.

Khatoon has denied the charges, saying she was simply arranging a marriage. It can be a difficult distinction to draw in a society that has long grappled with reconciling rapid urban modernization that outpaces large swaths of the country with ancient cultural traditions.

"I swear on the Koran that I asked Nushin's hand in marriage for my grandson and her father agreed," Khatoon maintains. "You can even see the engagement ring on her finger."

In Pakistan, underage girls are sometimes offered for marriage to settle disputes between families in a practice known as "swara." It is a common practice in the Pashtun-dominated tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. It is also prevalent in tribal communities in parts of Punjab and Balochistan Province.

Written by Frud Bezhan based on reporting by Shabbir Jan in Peshawar
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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the regional desk editor for Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2012, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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