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Five arrested in Pakistan over child marriage

Seven-year-old girl married in illegal tribal custom

Five arrested in Pakistan over child marriage

Shah Amina, 7,  sits next to a police officer following the arrest of her father and four others.

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad
Pakistan

October 23, 2013

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Pakistani police arrested five people on Tuesday for allegedly arranging the marriage of a seven-year-old girl in the Swat Valley.

The marriage resulted from a local tribal meeting, or jirga, which ordered the alleged swara, or child marriage.

The illegal custom, prevalent in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is linked to family feuds among different tribes and clans and involves the forced marriage of young girls to members of others clans to settle disputes.

According to police, a tribal man called Sherzada suggested to his neighbor, Muhammed Iqbal, that his 16-year-old daughter marry his son, Naik Zada.

The proposal prompted Iqbal to demand Sherzada’s seven-year old daughter, Shah Amina,  as the bride.

A jirga was held in Bazkhela in Matta Tehsil district to settle the matter. It ordered that Iqbal's demand should be met.

Acting on a tip-off, police raided the houses of the two families, rescued the young girl and arrested five people.

“We have arrest the girl’s father, father-in-law, two jirga members and the cleric under the Child Marriage Restraint Act,” Syed Amjad Ali, a local police officer, told ucanews.com.

Maulvi Fazal Jamil, who performed the wedding ceremony, said the marriage was in line with Islamic shari'ah law.

“There is no bar in Islam on performing a marriage for an underaged girl. But she must remain with her parents until she reaches adolescence,” he said.

“I was told by two families that the bride was a 20-year-old. I did not see her, as under Pasthun culture, brides are not brought before clerics,” Jamil said.

Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 prohibits females under 16 and males younger than 18 to marry, but the law is rarely enforced.

Annual figures on child marriages taking place in Pakistan remain unknown as most cases go unreported. 

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