For centuries, young girls in the northwestern tribes have shuddered at the word ‘ghag’. These naïve Pushtoon beauties never know when an innocent frolic in the surrounding meadows or mountains may cast a gloom on their fates. A tribal leader, or an influential enemy of their fathers, may set his eyes upon them and make a silent claim of marriage – which neither their tears, nor their families’ pleas could undo. This resolve of marriage, known as ‘ghag’ is binding upon the chosen girl and her family, lest she opts to remain unmarried all her life.

Early last year, Nawaz’s nephews Jehangir and Razzaq laid a claim of marriage upon his daughters Shaista and Razia. To Nawaz’s great dismay, the local jirga issued a hefty fine on the troubled father for humiliating his nephews by trying to defy the ghag claim. Greatly disillusioned, Nawaz turned to the state legal system, only to face yet another bummer: there was not a single clause in Constitution against the custom of ‘ghag’.

Legal experts say that in the absence of any confrontation from ghag victims’ families, no laws had been drafted. “Another reason is that that those laying down a marriage claim on a woman were always influential”, said Muhammad Essa Khan, an advocate of the Supreme Court.

However, Nawaz’s indomitable spirit came to the rescue of his daughters and several other girls. “A man of courage was needed to stand against the custom. Muhammad Nawaz served this need well,” said Khan.