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Panchayat trumps police: Copping out on child marriage

By Shamsul Islam

Police refuse to arrest anyone in 2 child marriage cases, saying the parties involved were in ‘mutual agreement’.

FAISALABAD: Two minor girls were forcibly wed after they were kidnapped on Thursday. According to police officials, the girls were kidnapped as ‘revenge’ after one of their brothers contracted a marriage with a girl from the family of the accused without their consent. Police officials said that since the issue was resolved by the panchayat there was no need to arrest anyone for the child marriages.

According to details, Mauza Khotiyana resident Nazakat contracted a love marriage with his first cousin Saima but the family of the girl opposed the union and considered the court marriage a grave insult. The couple — Nazakat and Saima — contracted the marriage in court on November 24, 2011. “They are cousins and the family is close but everyone considered it a grave insult that they did not consult their parents and did not take into account the decision of the village elders,” said a panchayat witness Rahman Shah.

The family elders also called a Panchayat that stated they would not compromise on this issue and sent a message to the couple to return to the village and let the village elders decide if they were willing to accept the marriage. “Marriages are made by families not the courts and the court stamp means nothing to us. It is the panchayat that will decide if they should stay together or divorce,” said Nazakat’s father Mubeen Sattar.

On December 18, Saima reached her parents house and on December 2O her father Allah Ditta moved a complaint before the Police Station Masan alleging therein that Nazakat had staged the entire marriage in court and had actually raped his daughter.

“He kidnapped my daughter and raped her and told people that it was a court marriage,” he said. The police registered an FIR 339/11 and filed a case under Section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code for committing zina. The police also issued a medical examination of Saima, which confirmed that zina was committed with her. Nizakat is still at large.

Meanwhile, Saima’s parents forcefully abducted Nazakat’s sisters Razia, 5, and Nazia, 9, three days ago and wed them to Aftab, 9, and Basit, 12. This development forced village elders to hold another panchayat, where they decided that the girls should be returned to the Nazakat’s parents and ought to be allowed to stay with their parents. “The nikah should be upheld but the girls should remain with their parents until Nazakat returns,” said panchayat leader Mukhdoom Khan. Saima’s parents returned the girls to Nazakat’s family on Friday night.

Station House Officer (SHO) Massan Saeed Chuchkana told reporters that the police had not arrested anyone so far because of lack of evidence. “We have received only the complaint of Saima’s parents but none from the other side. We initially registered a case against Nazkat for kidnapping Saima but they resolved the matter internally so there is no reason to arrest anyone,” he added.

Chuchkana said that since ‘forced marriage and the alleged incident of kidnapping the minors was an internal matter and none of the parities complained the issue was moot’. Subsequently no action has been taken by the police and the SHO also confirmed that the issue of kidnapping of minors and subsequently solemnising their Nikah had been resolved by the area elders and the decision was ‘acceptable to all parties’. “All these matters were dealt with mutual consent so there was nothing illegal,” he said.

“As for as arrest of Nazakat, who has been accused of zina, I have already constituted a police party for his arrest and he will be arrested by the next 48 hours”, he asserted.

Area District Superintendent Police (DSP) Mirza Anjum Iqbal said that the incident was not brought before his notice. “Ofcourse child marriage is a crime and an inquiry will be conducted into the incident. If the charges are true, the SHO in question, will be suspended,” he said.

Source: Tribune