The spotlight is back on marriages of convenience. Wednesday night's police raid on premises in the old city shows that the menace of short contract marriages is not over yet. The premises at Sultan Shahi, which belongs to a faith-healer, served as a cosy joint for the aging Shaikhs to celebrate ‘honeymoon' of their short-lived marriages.

A worried Wakf Board on Wednesday tried to find out whether the two Arab nationals whom the police took into custody were actually married to the young girls they were found with. Enquiries revealed that none of the Qazis, who have jurisdiction over the old city, performed any ‘nikah' involving a foreigner in the recent past.

“The marriage might have been performed by somebody else but definitely not by any Qazi”, said Syed Ghulam Afzal Biabani, chairman, Wakf Board.

While acknowledging the exploitation of poor Muslim girls, he said the Wakf Board doesn't have much say in the matter as it simply issued marriage certificates. “We have no role in the appointment of Qazis also. It is for the Minority Welfare Department to look into the issue”, Mr. Biabani said.

But the common man is not ready to buy this argument. Many feel the Wakf Board has to exert moral pressure and crack the whip against errant Qazis to stop marriages where the local girls are ditched soon after the wedding. The strong public opinion in this matter can be gauged from the smashing of the faith healer's premises by the residents on learning about the illegal activities going on there.

For this sordid things to stop, many feel, the nexus between the brokers, the guest house owners and the Qazis should be broken. Contract marriages are un-Islamic but pliable Qazis are ready to bend the Shariat rules for monetary gain, it is said.

In some cases at the time of marriage itself the ‘talaq' papers are signed. But the girls are helpless as their parents are paid handsome money by the Shaikhs.

Except for the citizens of Oman and Saudi Arabia there are no rules governing marriage of foreigners with Indians. Nationals of these countries, who are below 60 years, have to obtain marriage permission from their Embassies and only on its production they are wedded and a marriage certificate issued by the Wakf Board. Records show that this year so far 278 marriages of foreign nationals have been performed in Hyderabad. The bridegrooms are from US, UK, Pakistan, UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Somalia, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

“We are worried only if there is a wide age gap between the marrying couples”, says Qazi Farooq Arifi of Wakf Board.

After a hue and cry in 2004, the Wakf Board issued guidelines to Qazis. They were asked not to straightaway perform marriages involving foreign nationals, especially those of Gulf countries. The Qazis were also asked to alert the Wakf Board when they are approached to perform such marriages. Good suggestions, but they remain only on paper.

Keywords: Wakf Board

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