Pakistani police break up children's marriage

Fri Oct 31, 2008 2:38am EDT
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KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistani police raided a child marriage ceremony in the city of Karachi and arrested a cleric who was presiding over the wedding of a 4-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy, police and residents said on Friday.

Pakistani law says people must be 18 to marry but some Islamic laws allow girls to marry after puberty. Despite the laws, young girls are often given away in marriage to settle disputes or pay off debts.

Police said they raided a house on Thursday evening following complaints from residents, including a former district government official, Nazakat Hussain, who said the girl was being married off by her father for about 500,000 rupees ($6,138).

"We had noticed some gatherings at this house for a couple of days. Last night I went there and saw that the little girl was actually getting married. So we called the police," Hassan told Reuters.

Some other residents said the marriage was taking place to resolve a long-standing family dispute. Police said they had arrested the boy's father but the girl's father had run away.

(Reporting by Imtiaz Shah; writing by Aftab Borka; editing by Roger Crabb)