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Wednesday, March 4, 1998 Published at 10:35 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Phil Goodwin ]Phil Goodwin
Islamabad

The man at the centre of a controversy in Pakistan because of his marriage to a woman without her father's consent, has been shot and seriously injured outside a court in the city of Karachi. The man, Kanwar Ahsan, who was being taken to the court under police protection, received at least four bullet wounds. Three policemen were also injured. The authorities have arrested four men in connection with the shooting, including the man who had earlier been engaged to the woman. From Islamabad Phil Goodwin reports.

This is a tragic development in a controversy which has gripped Pakistan for weeks. The issue first surfaced when the ethnic Pashtun community in Karachi held demonstrations and called a nationwide strike, to protest at what they allege was the kidnapping of a local women, Riffat Afridi.

Her father said Kanwar Ahsan had abducted her. Police located them and they were both arrested.

She later appeared in court and testified that she had been engaged to another man but had chosen to run away from home and marry Kanwar Ahsan. They've since both been held in protective custody.

Kanwar Ahsan had said he feared for his life. The man that Riffat Afridi was originally engaged to is among those arrested in connection with his shooting.

Marrying for love in Pakistan defies longstanding traditions in which families choose the marriage partners for their children. The tradition is especially strong in the ethnic Pashtun community.

The human rights commission of Pakistan says many women are currently in prison throughout the country, awaiting the hearing of cases brought by their families who are challenging their marriages. Last year in a high profile case a woman, Saima Waheed, was taken to court by her father for marrying the man she loved without consent, she won her case on appeal.





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