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Six Pakistanis Arrested For Arranged Marriages Of Children

Police in northern Pakistan have arrested six people, including an imam, on charges of contracting four underage children to get married in order to settle a family feud, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Two sisters -- 3-year-old Darwesh Bibi and 6-year-old Fazeelat Bibi -- were engaged to two boys from another family to resolve a dispute between the families, who live in the Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Police officials said the local "panchayat," or council, announced the decision after the brother of the two girls, Barkatullah, was found guilty of "wrongdoing" against the other family.

The decision to engage the four children was made under a local ritual called "vani" or "swara," which is banned under Pakistani law. It entails forcing women and girls under the age of consent into marriage to settle family feuds.

Police in Dera Ismail Khan have opened criminal cases against 14 people. Police said six of them have been arrested and ongoing investigations will lead to further arrests.

Muhammad Ashraf, the police chief at the Saddar police station in Dera Ismail Khan, told RFE/RL that the incident took place in the village of Got Kala.

"Two underage girls were engaged. One was three years old and the other was six years old," Ashraf said. "I went there and after confirmation, I arrested the mullah and six more people from both families. Some more arrests will be made. This is against the law and we took action."

The incident is the third of its kind in Dera Ismail Khan or the surrounding area in the past year.