ISLAMABAD: When Jhelum’s Umar Farooq left his home on Monday morning at the head of his wedding procession (baraat), no one thought the newly-wed couple and all those in the procession would end their day at a police station in the federal capital.

The 40-year-old small cattle trader lives in a village near Pind Dadan Khan, Jhelum. His late parents often wanted him to get married but he refused and remained single, until a few weeks ago when his friends convinced him otherwise.

His family contacted a local matchmaking woman who, along with another man, told the family that there was a suitable proposal of a young girl for Farooq in Islamabad, but he would have to pay the girl’s family.

On September 9, Farooq travelled to Islamabad along with the matchmakers Nusrat Bibi, Tahir and Sameeullah.

The matchmakers took Farooq to a house in a village near Bhara Kahu where the girl’s family apparently lived. “The house was in a sort of jungle. It appeared as if this was not where the girl’s family lived,” Farooq recalled.

However, Farooq was introduced to the girl at the site and Farooq liked her.

A man named Masood, who claimed to be the girl’s guardian, said that the girl was his wife’s younger sister and that her parents had died.

The girl appeared to be around 20 years of age and told Farooq that her name was Irum.

Masood then demanded that Farooq pay them Rs200,000 from Farooq but eventually agreed to marry the girl off for Rs130,000.

Since only a day was left before the start of Muharram, Masood and others suggested that Farooq bring his wedding procession and the money the very next day.

On Monday, Farooq and some of his close relatives left for Islamabad in three rented cars along with the matchmakers.

They went to the same house near Bhara Kahu where Farooq says he was a little surprised to see that there were only the same three men and two women whom he had met the day before.

Farooq, though, handed over the cash. The family counted it and then called a cleric who made Farooq recite three kalmaas, read some verses, filled out the nikkah form and took signatures from the groom and witnesses after which they offered a prayer and celebrated the marriage with a box of sweetmeats.

The groom demanded a copy of the nikkah form but Masood told him that he could have one in a couple of days after they complete all the formalities.

After the simple marriage ceremony, Farooq and his relatives left with the bride for their hometown of Pind Dadan Khan.

However, when they reached the Khanna bridge, the girl allegedly made a noise and told them to pull over. She tried to flee but Farooq grasped her hand, after which she started shouting and called out to passersby for help.

She told the gathering crowd that she was being kidnapped and soon the police arrived and took the couple as well as the wedding party to the Khanna police station and detained them in the station’s holding cells.

While the girl had told Farooq that her name was Irum, now told the police that her name was Shabnam and Babli.

In the meanwhile, the matchmakers, who were travelling in a separate car fled and turned their phones off.

Considering it to a kidnapping attempt, the police initially roughed up Farooq and others. But when Farooq told the cops his side of the story and the girl was questioned, they realised that the cattle trader from Jhelum had been conned.

The girl confessed that she was already married and had two children and that she had been hired to play the role of Farooq’s newly-wed bride for Rs10,000.

The police registered a case of fraud against the woman, the matchmakers and others and released Farooq and other wedding party members in the early hours of Tuesday.

Police said they were raiding known hideouts to nab the suspects but have so far not found them.

“Apart from the Rs130,000, I gave the cleric Rs3,000 and another Rs5,000 as haq mehr (alimony). Around Rs28,000 were spent on the two trips. Overall, I have lost around Rs175,000 which I had arranged after selling some of my inherited lands,” Farooq said, adding, “I am a victim of fraud. I need justice.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2018.