We're moving to Dubai, say couple who enraged Asia

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The Independent Online

The back-and-forth saga surrounding the engagement of a Pakistani cricketer and an Indian tennis player appeared to have reached a happy ending yesterday when the couple finally got married.

Friends of tennis ace Sania Mirza and former cricket captain Shoaib Malik said the pair married in the city of Hyderabad after their families brought the date of the ceremony forward by three days, perhaps to try to throw off the media.

Rucha Naik, a spokeswoman for Mirza's family, said the Nikah, or Muslim wedding ceremony, was held at a luxury hotel in the southern Indian city. The 23-year-old bride reportedly wore the red sari that her mother had worn at her own wedding 25 years earlier.

"Please pray for the couple," the spokeswoman told reporters. The engagement between two of South Asia's leading sports personalities was initially met with much celebration in both countries, although some right-wing Hindu groups in India condemned Mirza, claiming that the marriage was a betrayal of her country.

But the story quickly soured when another Indian woman, Ayesha Siddique, claimed she was already married to Malik, whom she alleged had got her pregnant in 2002 and then unceremoniously dumped her at his team-mates' urging after she got fat. Ms Siddique made a formal complaint to the police, who then questioned the cricketer and confiscated his passport.

Eventually, with the affair rapidly turning into a tale of sleaze, elders within the Muslim community in Hyderabad stepped in and came to a compromise. As a result, Malik, 27, who has been suspended from the Pakistan team for a year for alleged indiscipline, accepted that he was married to Ms Siddique and granted her a traditional divorce. That opened the way to allow the cross-border couple to proceed with their own wedding ceremony.

The Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani plans to greet them with a lavish reception should they visit Malik's home country – but barring any fresh twists, the couple say they intend to live in Dubai.

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