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Husband in intertribal marriage arrested

Handcuffed and surrounded by armed guards, a man whose marriage to a girl from a rival ethnic group triggered widespread riots was taken into custody Thursday.

Looking haggard and frightened, Kanwar Ahson was taken to an undisclosed jail from the Karachi District Court where he appeared Thursday on charges of having sex outside of marriage. He will stay in jail until his case is heard.His bride, an ethnic Pathan, was reportedly in hiding after her father and members of her tribe sentenced her to die for running off with Ahson.

Some newspapers said attempts were being made to slip Riffat Afridi out of the country so she could seek asylum in a Western country.

Her family accused Ahson of kidnapping their daughter, a charge he has denied. Police said Thursday that the marriage certificate Ahson gave them appeared valid.

"I am not afraid of any consequences," Ahson said before leaving the courthouse. "She is my lawful wife. She went on her own will."

The two had been friends for nearly four years when Ahson proposed, first asking her father for her hand in marriage.

"He said `No,' so we decided to marry at the home of one of my relatives," Ahson said.

Undeterred, members of Afridi's tribe have threatened further violence unless Riffat is found and arrested.

Her death sentence was imposed last week by a council of tribal elders who met in this southern city. The council declared that Pathan "honor" had been violated, making it impossible to do anything else but either shoot or stone the young girl to death.

Ahson belongs to the Mohajir ethnic group that represents Indian immigrants who settled in Pakistan when the subcontinent became independent in 1947.

Two people died and eight others were seriously injured last week in bitter ethnic riots ignited by the union. The riots shut down Karachi, home to 14 million people, most of them Mohajirs.

Pathans and Mohajirs have an antagonistic history. A decade ago, thousands died in months of violence that erupted after a bus driven by an ethnic Pathan killed a Mohajir girl.