Pakistan police halt marriage of 10-year-old girl

File photo: A relative tries to drag a 15-year-old onto a bed to pose for photographs on the day of her wedding to a 32-year-old man, 20 August 2015 in Manikganj, Bangladesh Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The UN says South Asia has the highest rates of child marriage in the world (file photo)

Pakistani police say they have halted the marriage of a 10-year-old girl, who was due to wed a 14-year-old boy to end a dispute between their families.

Local village elders had ordered the marriage after the girl's brother was accused of killing his wife.

Correspondents say "vani" marriages, where a woman is ordered to marry to settle the crime of a relative, are illegal but remain common in Pakistan.

Police say they have arrested four village elders over the case.

The vani marriage had been due to take place in Punjab's Rahimyar Khan district on Friday, but was stopped after police raided the village.

Officers were still searching for nearly 20 other suspects, police official Chaudhry Yasin told the BBC.

'Honour killing'

The girl's brother was accused of killing his wife after he suspected her of an affair. He was arrested and is currently in jail.

Following his arrest, a council of local village elders, known as a panchayat, was called to settle the conflict between the two families.

Both families belonged to the minority Hindu community living in Rahimyar Khan, Chaudhry Yasin said.

The panchayat ruled that the 10-year-old girl should marry the 14-year-old boy, who was a relative of the victim, in order to settle the dispute.

Under Pakistani law, relatives of a murder victim have the right to pardon the perpetrator in return for blood money or a compromise, the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad reports.

Both honour killings and vani marriages remain common in Pakistan, with perpetrators from poorer and less influential sections of society most likely to be prosecuted, our correspondent adds.

In January, a bill that proposed raising the legal age of marriage for women from 16 to 18 was withdrawn after a religious body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, described the bill as "un-Islamic".

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