Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 18:51 UK

Twists and turns in South Asia celebrity love match

Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik
The love story is in the best traditions of Bollywood and now ends with a wedding

By Omer Farooq
BBC News, Hyderabad

When Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik landed in the Indian city of Hyderabad in the early hours of Saturday, he had stars in his eyes.

He had come to marry beautiful Indian tennis star Sania Mirza.

But he had no idea that his romantic dream was going to turn into a nightmare complete with criminal charges, police investigations and finally divorce from another woman.

After a week of media gossip and intrigue, the saga of Shoaib Malik and his first wife, Ayesha Siddiqui, reached its climax on Wednesday.

The move came as a big surprise because until recently, 29-year-old Shoaib was stubbornly denying ever having met Ayesha, let alone marrying her.

He had apparently met her on the internet and they married over the telephone.

Intense press interest

Ayesha on the other hand was seething with anger and had vowed to take revenge for her humiliation. She had taken the matter to the police, charging Shoaib with cheating, criminal intimidation and domestic violence.

Media outside Sania Mirza's house
The story has generated intense media interest

Such drama - superstars from bitter enemies India and Pakistan caught up in an apparent love triangle - contained all the elements of a Bollywood movie and was the stuff of dreams for the South Asian media.

In fact the intense press interest meant that police in the southern city of Hyderabad had a strange task on their hands.

They had to find out whether there was any truth in Ms Siddiqui's claims that she was Malik's first wife and investigate his insistence he had never met her.

Caught in the crossfire was Sania Mirza, whose plans for a dreamlike wedding on 15 April at one point looked as if they would have to be put on hold.

Mirza's bungalow, perched on a hillock in the upmarket Jubilee Hills area of Hyderabad, did not for a while present a happy picture.

The initial celebration, laughter, music and dance gave way to silence and tension as policemen and security guards tried to keep over-enthusiastic media teams at bay.

The palpable tension inside was clear from the tired and sleepless face of 23-year-old Sania as she stood side by side with her future husband while he defended himself against serious charges.

Nearly three dozen TV cameras and an army of reporters descended from all parts of the country, ever ready to shoot any movement even though the gates and the windows were firmly closed with the main characters apparently confined inside.

Painstaking efforts

The hysterical media coverage did not however stop Sania's mother, Naseema Mirza, from doing some shopping in Delhi and Mumbai in preparation for the marriage - including the purchase of the odd designer suit or two.

Sania Mirza and her father
The happy ending has come as a relief to Mirza's family

Before the drama, the Mirza family had chosen the five-star Taj Krishna hotel to host 800 guests for the wedding. Ironically it was the same place where Sania's engagement to childhood friend Sohrab Mirza took place two years ago with equally great fanfare - but that relationship broke down two months ago.

So what were the circumstances that led to the apparent negotiated end to Shoaib's first marriage?

While there has been no comment from any of the three main players in the love triangle, those close to them have not been afraid to speak.

The answer seems to lie in quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiations, the painstaking efforts of Muslim elders and moral pressure from the community at large.

"Ever since this issue came out we... were trying to resolve the issue as it was going from bad to worse. The community was very much perturbed by the muckraking," said Major SGM Quadri, the chief negotiator involved in the efforts.

What exactly transpired in the negotiations between Ayesha and Shoaib remains unclear, but both sides have now apparently agreed to abide by the decisions of the elders.

The settlement was reportedly hammered out in accordance with Islamic Shariah law and was in "the larger interest of the community".

Ayesha's mother, Farisa Siddiqui, said that community elders had asked her to come to some sort of settlement.

"That is why I agreed and my daughter agreed. I am very happy that finally Shoaib gave a divorce. Justice has been done to us," she said.

Maj Quadri said that Malik had also "agreed to go by our decision".

Sources say that while no financial dealing was part of the compromise, he agreed to pay 15,000 rupees (about $337; £220) to Ayesha for three months maintenance in accordance with Shariah law.

The Siddiqui family in return informed the police that they were withdrawing their criminal complaint against the cricketer.

All this means that the way is now clear for the marriage of Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza on 15 April - a true Bollywood ending.

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