Last edited: February 21, 2005

Pakistani Man Ordered to Marry Off Young Niece as Punishment for His Adultery

CANOE, February 21, 2005
The Sun Newspapers, Canada

MULTAN, PAKISTAN (AP)—A Pakistan village council has punished a 20-year-old man for adultery by ordering the betrothal of his two-year-old niece to the husband of the woman with whom he had the alleged affair, police said on Monday.

Tribal elders meeting last week also ordered Mohammed Akmal to pay a 230,000-rupee ($4,782 Cdn) fine to the woman’s husband, who has since divorced his wife.

Police said that the council in Kacha Chohan village, about 350 kilometres west of Punjab province’s major city of Multan, decreed that the two-year-old girl would be married to Mohammed Altaf when she turns 18.

Altaf, a 42-year-old farmer, divorced his 32-year-old wife over her alleged love affair with Akmal, and then asked elders to convene the panchayat, or council, on Feb. 15 to arbitrate in the dispute and propose a punishment.

Akmal, a bachelor and also a farmer, is Altaf’s cousin and has no children.

Area police chief Maqsoodul Hassan said officers have started an investigation, but had made no arrests because no one had filed a complaint.

None of the parties to the dispute could be reached for comment Monday. Their Mazari tribal village has no telephone service.

Rashid Rahman, a lawyer and Multan-based co-ordinator with the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, condemned the village council’s decision.

“These types of panchayats are illegal and nobody has the right to take a decision about a child’s life,” he said. “This country has its legal system and all decisions should be taken under it.”

He said that the betrothal of a minor did not break the law—but that forcing a woman to marry against her will carries a maximum 14-year jail sentence. Underage marriage, also illegal, is only punishable by a fine.

Village councils in conservative rural parts of Pakistan traditionally rule on local disputes, such as when a family’s “honour” is purportedly besmirched by allegations of love affairs. The councils can dictate harsh—and sometimes illegal—punishments.

In 2002, another village council near Multan ordered a woman to be gang-raped as punishment for her brother’s sexual relations with another woman.

A court later convicted six men who perpetrated the rape and sentenced them to death. They are appealing their sentences.

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