PAKISTAN: When the police take on the duties of the mullahs a young girl is married to a man of 85 -- "She is 12-years-old and that is not too young for marriage''
Though the marriage of a child is unlawful under the laws of Pakistan the police took the shelter behind Shariah Law to facilitate the union between an 85-year-old man and a minor of 12 years. The marriage was part of the settlement of a blood debt organised through a local tribal justice system, a Panchayat. According to the senior police officer involved in the case there was nothing illegal in the marriage as, according to Islamic Shariah, the girl is an adult. She is 12-years-old and that is not too young for marriage. Accordingly the police refused to arrest the culprits who arranged the marriage of a minor without her consent
According to the report published in the Daily Express Tribune, a man named Mr. Faiz, handed over his daughter Rani to his rival in exchange for five acres of agricultural land and the withdrawal of a murder case against him. In a confused setting it was reported that Faiz killed the wife of the aged groom some eight years ago. The deceased, Anwar Bibi, was also a cousin of Faiz, the father of the child bride. The murderer remained under trial for eight years during which time the elders of the area, by means of a Panchayat, (an illegal parallel judicial system), decided that the charge of murder against him could only be withdrawn if he handed over his 12-year- old daughter in marriage to the groom, Ahmed.
The deal was finalized after a marriage was solemnised three months ago and before release of Faiz from the charge but the formal marriage ceremony was held only one week ago. The groom was happy during the ceremony before more than 100 persons as this was his fourth marriage. His first wife had died young and the second got a divorce. The third, Anwar Bibi, was murdered by Faiz. The deal also stipulated that five acres of land be given to Faiz for handing over his daughter and the property has now been transferred.
According to Mr. Shamsul Islam Naz, the reporter of the Express, when he contacted, Zafar Bhatti, the Langrana Station House Officer (SHO), Chiniot Punjab province, the SHO said that he had conducted a raid at the house of the groom but found that no laws had been broken. ''I cannot arrest anyone here because the girl is an adult as per Islamic Law and Shariah. She is 12-years-old and that is not too young for marriage''.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that the age of adulthood is 18. Under the laws of Pakistan in the Child Marriage Restraints Act of 1929 ''child'' means a person who, if a male, is under eighteen years of age, and if a female, is under sixteen years of age.
It must be questioned as to how a police officer of any rank may take such a decision without considering the law that he is sworn to uphold. Indeed, there are several questions in this matter which must be raised and answered by the authorities. First of all is the fact that the tribal Panchayat is illegal under the law. This body of men made the decision to hand over a 12-year-old girl to an 85-year-old man as if she was nothing more than an ox. This is distressingly common in Pakistan as young girls, often minors, are used as trading commodities to settle differences between families and tribes. This is due solely to the misuse of Shariah Law which is also used to shield the fact that women and young girls are considered as nothing more than slaves to be used and traded. This happens despite the fact that the country has elected forums, laws, a constitution and a well-defined legal system.
Frequently it is seen that the police hide behind Shariah Law when they are required to stand firm and protect the rights of the citizens, be they adult or minor. It is simply too easy for them to shrug their shoulders and say that they have no choice in the matter because the tribal elders have decided something. It must be questioned as to whether the police are taking on the responsibilities of the mullahs in deciding when Shariah Law is to be enforced. Much like the teachers of the country are they now attempting to become more mullah-like than the mullahs themselves?