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ISLAMABAD, May 13: Former HRCP chairperson Asma Jehangir informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that over 250 couples were facing hardships, most of them in jails, due to a delay in decision on appeals against the LHC judgment in which it was declared that a Muslim woman could not marry of her own free will.

Appeals against the LHC decision that a Muslim woman is not free to marry of her own will and Nikah solemnized without the consent of her Wali (Guardian) will be invalid, have been pending in the Supreme Court since 1997.

Giving arguments in the Saima Waheed case, Ms Jehangir said the LHC decision had given a licence to the police to harass people and throw them into lock-ups on complaints lodged by the families of the women who married without consent of their parents.

The three-member bench, headed by Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, adjourned the case to the last week of June.

The Lahore High Court, headed by Justice Khalilur Rehman Khan, had sparked a controversy in the country by holding that a Muslim woman could not marry of her own free will. The LHC, in a short span, had given two contradictory judgments.

When the matter reached the Supreme Court in 1997, it immediately suspended the operation of the LHC judgments, and announced that it would decide the issue by giving an authoritative pronouncement.

Mohammad Iqbal from Faisalabad, who had married Shabana but was separated from his wife because of the LHC judgment, was present in the Supreme Court. He said he was not able to live with his wife for the last six years as his appeal was still pending.

Saima Waheed, daughter of Maulana Waheed Robri, who now lives in Norway with her husband Arshad, sent an affidavit which has been placed on the court record. In her affidavit, she said her father wanted to give her in marriage to his business partner, a Saudi Shaikh 25 years older than her, to get financial benefits.

When Saima refused, her father tried to engage her with another person of his choice, telling her that he being her Wali did not need her consent to give her in marriage to anyone.

Saima said Arshad, whom she liked, had proposed her twice through his parents. She said she was left with no choice but to marry him to avoid harassment from her father. After marrying Arshad, she said, she returned to her parents’ home.

Saima said when her father came to know about the marriage he beat her up severely and locked him up in a room for one month before she managed to approach Advocate Asma Jehangir.

She said that then Chief Justice Khalilur Rehman Khan, Justice (retd) Ahsanul Haq Chaudhry and Justice Abdul Hafeez Cheema being friends of her uncle, had created the whole problem.