The Pakistan supreme court has granted Muslim girls the right to marry according to their 'free will' without the consent of their parents or guardians.
Setting aside a Lahore high court judgment of 1997, a full bench of the supreme court ruled that Muslim girls can marry without their wali's (guardian's) consent and an admission by the couple is sufficient proof.
"The consent of the wali is not required. An adult and sane Muslim female can enter into a valid nikaah of her own free will," the court observed. After reaching puberty, a Muslim girl is competent to marry of her own free will and as such her father's custody can be denied after the marriage, it said.
The high court judgment stipulating the guardian's consent for a girl's marriage came in a case filed by Hafiz Abdul Waheed Ropri, who had challenged the legality of his daughter Saima Waheed's wedding with Arshed Ahmed on February 26, 1996. A single judge of the court declared the marriage valid, but a division bench overruled him.
The supreme court said it was "inappropriate and undesirable, if not illegal" for the high court to have "determined the fate of the couple by adjudicating the validity of marriage on the touchstones of injunctions of Islam in proceeding under section 491 of the CrPC [Criminal Procedure Code]."
Ropri later filed a case of abduction against noted Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jehangir, when Saima took refuge in her house. The supreme court in its judgment also exonerated Jehangir of any wrongdoing.