By Akbar Bajwa
LAHORE: Nawab Town police prevented the marriage of a nine-year-old girl to a 60-year-old man late on Thursday. They failed, however, to arrest the groom or to recover the child.
SHO Imran Qamar said police had received reports that Muhammad Afzal was marrying the girl in the village of Ali Razaabad. When a police team raided the venue, some guests pelted it with stones and then attacked the policemen with batons and steel rods.
Police had to retreat after SHO Qamar and four constables were injured. They later arrested the nikah khwan, an uncle of the groom and six other guests.
“As soon as we reached there, the groom’s family blocked our way. They hurled rocks at us when we told them that we were there only to confirm the bride’s age,” Qamar told The Express Tribune. He said when the police tried to enter the tents where the ceremony was taking place, the guests attacked them with clubs. “We had to retreat… we managed to arrest eight people, including the cleric solemnising the marriage.”
Police have registered an FIR against 10 people, including the groom, under Sections 323, 385 (putting a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion), 185, 149 (unlawful assembly), 395 (robbery) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 3, 4, 5 of the Child Marriage Act.
Hafiz Ubaid, the cleric, told police the groom had paid Rs200,000 to the girl’s father.
“I had no idea that the girl was a nine-year-old. I was told that she was 18 and that the groom was 40,” Ubaid told The Express Tribune from the lock-up. He said he had not seen the girl himself.
Asked why he had not verified the ages of the groom and the bride, the cleric said, “When I asked their families to show me their identity cards, they said they would do so later. They insisted me to first solemnise the nikah,” he said.
“This amounts to selling a girl to an elderly man. It is worse than marrying a child to an elderly man,” said a police official at the police.
An investigation officer quoted the groom’s uncle as saying that the girl was at least 18 years old. Acting Nawab Town SHO Mian Naveed said they were doing their best to locate Afzal and the girl child.