Bhowana Police arrested a man for marrying his five-year-old daughter in a watta satta ceremony on Sunday.
According to police officials, a team raided a village in Deputy Wala Chak-466GB after a wedding ceremony had been contracted and the guests were having food. Guests at the function told police officials that Chiniot resident Akram’s wife had died three years ago and he intended to contract a marriage with local resident Irfan’s sister. In exchange, Akram agreed to marry his daughter Sana with Irfan, 25.
On Sunday, Irfan arrived in Deputy Wala with wedding guests.
The couples were having food when Bhowana police raided the scene following the nuptials. Police arrested the bride’s father, grandfather and the nikah khawan Muhammmad Nawaz. Police officials also apprehended seven wedding guests and took Sana Shehzadi into custody.
“Both the bridegroom and the girl’s father ran away when they saw the police but Akram was caught,” said wedding guest Rana Hameed. “Akram wanted to marry Irfan’s sister Humera, 21, and he offered up his daughter instead.
The child didn’t seem to have any clue as to what was going on,” said wedding guest Shehnaz Bibi.
Muhammad Nawaz, a registered nikah khawan of the locality solemnised the nikah of Iram Shehzadi with Irfran in the presence of more than three dozen witnesses, including the girl’s grandparents. After being arrested Nawaz said that he had not done anything wrong. “This marriage is allowed in Islam and it is not against the law. Her father is her wali and he has the right to contract the union on her behalf,” Nawaz told reporters. “The child had no idea what was happening. She didn’t know she had gotten married or that her father was also getting married to her new sister-in-law,” said a wedding guest Madeeha Bano.
Police officials rounded up a total of ten people at the function including Sattan Bibi – Irum’s grandmother. Among others who were arrested include Nusrat Ali, Muhammad Raiz, Nikah Registrar Maulvi Muhammad Nawaz, Ramzan and Aslam etc.
The police have also taken Sana Shehzadi into custody and said that she would be presented before the area magistrate within the next two days. “The child will be sent to a Darul Aman and a case has already been filed against her father and the bridegroom,” Police inspector Muhammad Younus said.
“Action is being taken against the accused under the Child Protection Law and he will be presented before the court. Irfan is still at large but a team of police officials is searching for his whereabouts,” he said.
The child’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
A clause for concern
The “Child Marriage Restraint Act”, (CMRA) dating back to 1929 has never really been implemented and remains in the statute books.
In March 2004, the Law and Justice Commission came out with a draft amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) seeking to penalise the act of offering or accepting a woman against her free will, or any child in marriage by way of compensation.
As per Section 4 the punishment for a male adult above eighteen years of age marrying a child, has been provided which states “whoever, being a male above eighteen years of age, contracts child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”
Likewise, Section 5 provides the punishment for solemnising child marriage and lays down that “whoever performs, conducts or directs any child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both, unless he proves that he had reason to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.”
While Section 6 deals with ‘”punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child marriage. (1)
Where a minor contracts a child marriage any person having charge of the minor, whether as parent or guardian or in any other capacity, lawful or unlawful, who does any act to promote the marriage or permits it to be solemnised, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnised, shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both”.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2011.