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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 18:16 GMT
'Sold' Pakistani girl in appeal
Hyderabad Map
The mother of a girl in Pakistan claimed by a man in lieu of a 16 year old gambling debt has appealed to the authorities for help.

The woman told journalists in the southern city of Hyderabad that she feared for her daughter's safety.

Women are often used as collateral to settle debts and feuds amongst tribesmen in rural Pakistan.

Last year, Pakistan's ruling political party introduced legislation to outlaw forced marriages under tribal customs.

Tribal justice

Nooran Bibi said her late husband had promised her daughter, Rasheeda, to one Lal Haider in lieu of a poker game debt amounting to 10,000 rupees ($164).

The mother says Rasheeda was a year old when her husband told Mr Haider that he could have her instead "when she grew up", reports the Associated Press news agency.

Nooran Bibi and Rasheeda
Rasheeda (r) with her mother and younger brother

After Rasheeda turned 17, Mr Haider had come to claim her, even though the debt had been paid off, the mother said.

She also complained that he had threatened her family if Rasheeda was not handed over.

Both families belong to a local tribe, and the case was referred to elders who ruled that the girl must be handed over to Mr Haider.

The matter is now with the local police who have registered a case against Mr Haider and the elders.

The use of women to settle blood feuds and debts in tribal society in Pakistan by promising them in marriage remains widespread despite recent reforms.

In November 2006, the ruling PML-Q political party introduced legislation in parliament to outlaw such marriages.

The new bill criminalises customs such as vanni and swara, in which young girls are given away in marriage to settle feuds and debts.

It prescribes a maximum of three years' imprisonment for offenders in these cases.

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