By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Police in northwestern Pakistan broke up an apparent wedding between a businessman and his transgender bride, saying Tuesday they could face seven years in prison for violating laws against same-sex marriage in the devoutly Muslim country.
The pair denied the charges, saying the celebration was a birthday party, not a wedding.
Authorities also detained 43 guests, who were dancing to drums when authorities made the raid Monday in Peshawar city, police official Javed Khan said.
The alleged bride and many of the guests are transgender, meaning they are biologically male but present themselves as female in their daily lives.
"It falls under same-sex marriage, which is not allowed under our law," Khan said.
Businessman Iqbal Khan, 48, and his alleged bride, an 18-year-old whose formal name is Kashif but goes by Rani, will be charged with attempted sodomy, police official Shaukat Ali said. If convicted, they could face seven years imprisonment.
Police said the pair denied the gathering was a wedding
Ali said it was apparent the two were getting married - pointing out that Iqbal Khan, a married father of five, paid 80,000 rupees ($940) to Rani's "guru."
In Pakistan, many transgenders are thrown out by their families and live in communal homes under the leadership of a "guru," a fellow transgender who looks after their needs and takes a cut of their earnings.
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Pakistan, and it is extremely rare to hear of a gay wedding.
There are no official figures for the number of transgender people in Pakistan. Known as khusra, they live on the edges of society and are frequently harassed by police.
Despite the discrimination, Pakistan's Islamic society tolerates them as dancers at festivals and weddings, where men and women are segregated and khusra are seen as bridging the gap. Many also work as prostitutes.
The couple and guests would remain in police custody while investigators record their statements and gather details, Khan said.