A man shot and seriously wounded for marrying a woman from a rival ethnic group had a right to be with her, and the two should not be facing criminal charges, police said Saturday.
Kanwar Ahson, charged with kidnapping and having extramarital sex because of his marriage to Riffat Afridi, was shot in the chest, abdomen and leg when he arrived at court Wednesday to face the charges.
He is in serious condition and doctors fear he may be paralyzed. His bride’s father, brother and the man they wanted her to marry were among those arrested for the shooting.
But police say Ahson and his bride should be free. Amanat Javed, who is heading the police investigation, said authorities are recommending the charges against them be dropped.
“Under Pakistani law, two adults have the right to marry, and the girl has already given a statement saying she went with him willingly,” Javed said.
The two said they eloped after her parents refused to allow them to marry. People over 18 may legally marry whomever they choose, but most families in Pakistan arrange their children’s marriages.
Afridi’s father initially charged Ahson with kidnapping his daughter and both the bride and groom were charged under Islamic law outlawing sex outside of marriage. The kidnapping charge has been dropped, but the government must approve that decision.
Ahson is a member of the Mohajir community, who settled in Pakistan from India 50 years ago. Afridi is a Pathan, a conservative tribal ethnic group that originates in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province. The two groups often clash.
The marriage sparked riots in Karachi that left two people dead and eight people injured. Leaders from both groups feared the shooting would spark new fighting.
Dr. Tipu Sultan at Karachi’s Civil Hospital said Ahson’s condition was stable but, “we have postponed operations to remove the bullets until he recovers further.”
But even if Ahson survives and the charges are dropped, the couple’s troubles are not over.
Conservative Pathans in Karachi have sentenced Afridi to death for dishonoring her family, which they say she did when she left her home with a man other than a relative.
Afridi, who was in protective custody, has been released and is living with her husband’s family.