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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 01:32 GMT 02:32 UK
Pakistan's 'Romeo and Juliet' reunited
By Idrees Bakhtiar
BBC correspondent in Karachi

Shaista Almani, when the couple were separate earlier this year
President Musharraf stepped in to help Shaista

Two lovers from opposing tribes in Pakistan who risked possible death for defying strict codes of honour by getting married have finally been reunited and are now living together in police quarters in Karachi.

Shaista Almani and Balakh Sher Mehar were reunited when Balakh finally appeared in court in Karachi on Tuesday after repeated attempts by the police to establish his whereabouts.

The Sindh High Court ordered that they be set free and said they could go wherever they liked.

They left court together in a police car.

Tribal tensions

The two married about nine months ago in the interior of Sindh province.

Since then, their lives have been under threat: firstly because it was a love match, taboo in most parts of Pakistan, and secondly, the two are from different and opposing tribes.

The marriage increased tension between the two tribes, and Shaista's tribe vowed to kill both her and her husband.

Traditional wedding in Pakistan
Many Pakistanis have little say in whom they will marry
The couple fled, but returned and were arrested and later handed over to the elders of their tribes.

Shaista was fortunate. Her ordeal ended after intervention by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who said she should be protected.

She was brought to Karachi and was given a job with the police, but Balakh remained in the custody of the elders of his tribe, and was reported to have divorced his wife.

"It was done under duress and to protect the life of Shaista," he said.

According to his lawyer, Balakh told judges that he had been detained by some people whom he would not identify, but police located him and brought him to court.

Shaista was also brought to court by the police.

Divorce issue dodged

The court, after recording statements from Balakh and Shaista, set them free and allowed them to go wherever they like.

But it refused to pass any judgement on the issue of their apparent divorce.

"It is their personal matter and the issue was not raised in any of the three petitions, which pertain to their detention," the court said when lawyers raised the issue.

Taking their cue from the court order, Balakh and Shaista went together to police quarters, where the couple said they were very happy to be together again.

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15 Jan 04  |  South Asia
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24 Oct 03  |  South Asia
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11 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Country Profile: Pakistan
04 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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