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Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Pakistan 'child wedding' halted

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Children
Pakistan says that it's determined to eradicate child weddings

Police in southern Pakistan have arrested two people for attempting to wed a seven-year-old boy to a four-year-old girl, officials say.

It is believed to be the first time they have broken up such a marriage as the wedding was taking place.

The arrested men - the father of the groom and a cleric who performed the ceremony - say the wedding was meant to end a feud between the two families.

Child marriages are more common in remote tribal areas of Pakistan.

In the latest case, family members of the children involved argued that they wanted them to get married in advance of their real wedding which will be held when the pair reach the marriageable age of 18.

Child marriages are strictly against the law in Pakistan.

Acting on a complaint, the police raided the ceremony in a northern neighbourhood of the port city of Karachi on Thursday evening.

It is suspected that the girl was being married off by her father for about 500,000 rupees ($6,138).

'Wedding vows'

Video footage of the marriage, shot by some television teams that accompanied the police, show the two children in bride and groom ceremonial outfits.

They started crying when the police raided the scene.

Mohammad Ismail, the father of the groom, told the media that he worked in Saudi Arabia and was not aware that Pakistani laws prohibited child marriages.

He said that he had agreed to the wedding following advice from family elders that it would put an end to an old feud his family had with the family of the bride.

The cleric who was called to supervise and record the exchange of wedding vows by the couple and to record the witnesses, told the media he did not know that he was being invited to a child marriage.

However, police say they have recovered the marriage certificate from the scene which had been duly filled in by the cleric - except for the age columns for the bride and the groom.

Child marriages are often performed to settle feuds or pay off debts but the authorities say they are determined to bring them to an end.



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