Police raided a marriage ceremony here, foiling a bid to marry off a teenaged girl with a 55-year-old man, it emerged. The 13-year-old girl’s father and the accused groom were arrested while raids are being conducted to arrest the nikah khawan (officiator of the marriage), police said.
According to police, the father hailing from Mardan had agreed to marry his daughter off to a man more than four times her age in exchange for the promise of a five-marla plot. The nikah was already performed on February 11 while the rukhsati (bridal departure) was scheduled to take place in village Pind Mehri on Friday.
However, on the day of the rukhsati, neighbours alerted police about the child marriage bid after which police personnel conducted a raid and arrested the minor’s girl father and groom. Police also took the girl into custody and sent her to a Darul Aman. SHO Saddar police station Tariq Mehmood told DawnNews that the 55-year-old groom had been living in Saudi Arabia for the past 20 years and had returned home only recently. His wife had left him six months ago and he already has two daughters, aged 12 and 6.
The groom had offered to the victim’s father, who is poor, that he would give him a five-marla plot in the same area if he lets him marry his daughter, to which the father had consented. Police have registered cases against the father, the groom and the absconding nikah khawan under the Child Marriage Restraint Act on behalf of the state, the SHO said. The two arrested men were presented before a local court, which handed them over to police on physical remand.
The Senate Standing Committee on Interior had last year approved a bill seeking an increase in the marriageable age for women from 16 to 18 with a majority vote. The bill moved by PPP Senator Sehar Kamran will be tabled in the upper house for voting next. Kamran has argued that Pakistani citizens, who are not issued CNICs and driving licences before the age of 18 and are also not allowed to vote, should also not be allowed to marry before they turn 18. ‘Girls as young as 10 are being married off in Pakistan even though the legal minimum age for getting married is 16 and this is because they do not get their CNICs made. That is why I suggested the minimum age for getting married be raised to 18,’ she said last year.—TNS