By Hamza Ameer
Karachi, Nov 2 | While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan claims that his government is ensuring the safety and security of the minorities, cases of forced abduction and conversation continue to surface from across the country.
In a latest incident, the Sindh High Court granted bail to at least three men, accused of abducting a 13-year-old Christian girl, who was later forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a 44-year-old man.
Arzoo Masih is said to have married a Muslim man, Syed Ali Azhar, after converting to Islam.
Masih’s parents filed a case with the police authorities, which resulted in the arrest of Azhar’s brothers, Syed Shariq Ali and Syed Mohsin Ali, along with his friend Danish over their suspected involvement in the abduction and the forced conversion.
However, a petition was filed in the Sindh High Court (SHC) on October 27 by Arzoo, seeking protection from her parents and stating that she has converted to Islam and married Azhar on her own free-will.
The petition has been filed with a Karachi judicial magistrate seeking protective custody of 13-year-old Arzoo, asking the court to direct the police to recover the girl and produce her before the court.
As per details of the petition, the family has also called for Arzoo to be put into custody of a child protection institute, as they fear she is currently being subjected to sexual violence.
“Arzoo is 13 years old and have a NADRA (National Database Regulatory Authority) birth certificate to prove it. NADRA information says she was born on July 31, 2007,” claimed the parents of Arzoo.
The petition has been filed under rules 5, 8, 9 and 10 of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Rule, 2016, Section B of the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 and Section 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Raja Masih, the father of Arzoo, said that she was kidnapped from her home, adding that he had filed an FIR on October 13.
“I later found out from the police that Arzoo had been married off to Syed Ali Azhar, who presented a Nikkahnama (Muslim marriage authorised paper), free-will affidavit and a Sanad-e-Islam certificate,” he said.
On the other hand, the abductor and the husband of Arzoo claims that she is 18 years old and has willingly converted to Islam in order to marry him.
“Arzoo was forced to file a petition in the Sindh High Court on October 27. The court has restrained the police from making arrests in the case but it doesn’t stop them from continuing the investigation,” the parents of Arzoo argued.
“It also ordered the police to provide protection to the petitioner. This is where the argument of her being subjected to sexual violence comes in. Arzoo should be provided protection from her abductor,” they added.
The case has gained attention as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has taken notice of the issue, stating that “Sindh government will approach the courts to review the case to clear up any misunderstanding the honorable court may have”.
“We passed the law and will continue to fight for it to be implemented,” he stated.