Court Exonerates Pakistani Lovers

February 18, 1999
Court Exonerates Pakistani Lovers
By The Associated Press

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- Two Pakistani lovers who married in secret against the wishes of the woman's influential family were cleared Thursday of charges filed when they tried to flee the country.

While preparing to board a plane to the United States last month, Humeira Butt and her husband Mahmood, a U.S.-based Pakistani businessman, were arrested in the southern port city of Karachi. She was charged with adultery and he was charged with kidnapping.

Mrs. Butt's parents wanted her to marry a cousin, and when they heard of her marriage to Butt, they claimed she had already married the cousin.

Mrs. Butt insisted the marriage ceremony was a sham engineered by her father, and on Thursday, the Lahore High Court agreed with her. The court ordered the authorities to return the couple's passports, court officials said.

The couple is now free to leave Pakistan.

Interviewed inside a women's shelter, Mrs. Butt told The Associated Press her dream is to reconcile with her father.

"I wish my father would come to me and say 'live a happy life' but this is just a dream. ... I know he will never come," she said. "If he comes it will be with his bodyguards and weapons just to kill me."

Hidden behind a giant black veil with only her eyes showing, Mrs. Butt said: "Pakistan is my home, but it is not possible for me to live here. We will have to go to the United States."

The court also punished the police officer who arrested the couple at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. The police officer was suspended, fined the equivalent of $108 and jailed for one month, court officers said.

The couple was secretly married in 1997.

Their problems began when Mrs. Butt's father, Abbas Khokar, a powerful lawmaker in the Punjab provincial Parliament and a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, learned of the marriage.

Pakistani law does not bar adults from marrying a person of their own choice. But in conservative feudal and tribal systems -- which dominate most areas of the country -- women are often killed for marrying against the wishes of their parents.

Most women are married at a young age to men selected by their parents. Usually, the husband is a cousin.

Adultery in Pakistan is punishable by stoning to death under Islamic law.

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