Muslim men have a right under law to enter into four marriage contracts and subsequently take four women as wives, at the same time. The concept is known as polygamy and we find its roots in the sharia law however the right to enter into a subsequent marriage is subject to the following conditions provided under Rule 6 of Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961;
a) the husband shall make an application to the Chairman/Union Council, listing down his desire to re-marry and reasons for the proposed marriage. He shall also specify if consent has been acquired by the previous wife or/wives;
b) on receipt of the application the Chairman/Union Council shall request the existing wife/wives to nominate a representative, collectively constituting an Arbitration Council;
c) eventually the Arbitration Council if satisfied that the proposed marriage is necessary and just shall only then grant permission to the husband to enter into a new marriage. contract Without prejudice to its general powers to consider what is just and necessary, the Arbitration Council shall consider the following circumstances amongst others when ascertaining the necessity and justness of the proposed marriage: sterility, physical infirmity, physical unfitness for the conjugal relation, willful avoidance of a decree for restitution of conjugal rights, or insanity on the parts of the existing wife.
Seeking permission from the Arbitration Council is integral. If the husband fails to seek permission from the Arbitration Council prior to entering into a new marriage contract whilst already married, Rule 20(3) of the Family Court Act, 1964 accords the right to the Union Council/Arbitration Council or aggrieved party, that includes aggrieved wives to file a complaint in the Family Court identifying his non-compliance with the procedure to enter into Polygamy as detailed above.
In the event the husband is convicted pursuant to the complaint for not acquiring prior permission from the Arbitration Council under Rule 20(3) of the Family Court Act, 1964 he is likely to face the following consequences:
a) his new marriage contract will not be registered under the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961;
b) he shall immediately pay the entire amount of the dower, whether prompt or deferred, due to the existing wife or wives, which amount, if not so paid, shall be recoverable as arrears of land revenue; and
c) simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and with fine of five hundred thousand rupees.