“In some cases of court marriages, girls from rural areas have chosen rich married men as their life partners.” - Dawn File Photo

Three main nikkah registrars in Islamabad district courts – Qari Imdad, Qari Ismail, and Qari Noor Ilahi Chishti – helped solemnise about 250 court marriages in 2010. But during the first eight months of 2011, they have already solemnised 240 court marriages, a number expected to cross 300 by coming December.

For Mr Imdad, inflation and increasing poverty are the main reasons behind court marriages. He said parents were not paying attention towards marriages of their children, especially daughters.

“Young people are left with no option but to go for court marriage, which is very economical.”

According to him, a court marriage only costs Rs5,000. “Parents of bride and groom also accept this inexpensive marriage at a later stage.”

Apart from poverty, social media networking is also contributing to court marriages.

Akhtar Mehmood advocate, an Islamabad-based family court lawyer, said most of the couples approaching him for court marriage were users of Facebook, Twitter, HI5 or other social networking websites.

“In some cases of court marriages, girls from rural areas have chosen rich married men as their life partners.”

But he was quick to point out that love marriages are not “sustainable”, saying their success rate is lower than the arranged marriages. “Parent pressure, domestic issues and clashes force the couple to approach the court for divorce within six months.”

Linking increase in love marriages with social networking websites, Wahaj Siraj, convener Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISP), said during the last one year, the number of internet users has increased by 10 per cent in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

“Currently total number of internet users in Islamabad and Rawlpindi is 500,000 and it is gradually increasing.”

According to him, the young people spend most of their time on social networking websites where they not only make new friends but also find partners.

Barrister Afzal Hussain, another family court lawyer, supports the notion that due to social media networking, love marriages are on the rise but added that the couples face threats, registration of abduction cases and lengthy litigation. “In most of the cases, angry relatives of bride lodge case of her abduction against the groom and the couple faces lengthy litigation.” Barrister Hussain said sometime the wife is forced to record statement against the husband, putting the “innocent man behind the bar”.

Recently the chief justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) has quashed an FIR registered against Saima Shaheen and her husband, Muhammad Ikram.

They pleaded before the court that they are lawfully married couple, rejecting the FIR registered with Shahzad Town police claiming that they are involved in an illicit relationship. The case was registered against the couple by Saima's uncle, Tahir Mehmood. She said after the marriage in February this year her brothers with the help of police were harassing them.

In another case, Ayesha Aziz and her husband Shaharyar Ali also approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for quashing the FIR registered against them. Relatives of Ayesha got registered the FIR against her husband under section 365-B in New Town police station of Rawalpindi. The court's Rawalpindi bench had directed the police to quash the FIR.

Barrister Hussain suggests some amendments in the existing law to protect the couples. He also proposed penalty for registration of fake FIRs. “To discourage this trend, litigation expenses should be recovered from those who lodge fake FIRs.”

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