ISLAMABAD: In a shocking incident, the Sindh High Court granted custody of a 13-year-old Christian girl to her 44-year-old abductor in Pakistan’s Karachi. 

The girl, identified as Arzoo Raja, was kidnapped from her home in Karachi’s Railway Colony on October 13 and forcibly converted to Islam. An FIR was registered at Singh court by her family thereafter. 

However, the Sindh police summoned the victim’s family after two days and informed them that the kidnapper (Azhar Ali) has produced a marriage certificate with the girl that displayed that she is aged 18 years. As per the report, the girl was forcibly converted to Islam and married to the man, who is already wedded with children.

Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) said minority girls, particularly Christian and Hindu, are forcefully converted to Islam and married to Muslim men. 

“Girls belonging to the Minority community get abducted, converted to Islam and married to Muslim men. In most cases, local police stations, where the victim’s family submits complaints about her missing, inform about her conversion to Islam and getting married to the same abductor. The same day’s abduction, conversion and marrying is a common practice in such cases and has also happened with Arzoo in the same sequence,” said Naveed.

The HRFP fact-finding team brought out the fact that in proceedings of Sindh High Court dated October 27, 2020 all her records were altered including age, stating her as 18-year old and statement of her free will marrying and embracing Islam.

It is also found that Arzoo’s picture was also replaced on legal documents, as raised by her mother Rita. “In court premises, Arzoo was denied to meet her mother as she was stopped by Ali Azhar,” said Naveed Walter.

“The age of the girl is 13 and it is proved by her school record /certificate, NADRA’s B-form mentioning her DOB 31st July 2007 and Church register with same age but she is falsely presented as an adult in court including at conversion certificate of Madressah Jamia Islamia and marriage certificate with her new name Arzoo Fatima,” Naveed said. 

Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Pakistan, asserted the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014.

“As part of its commitment and signatory to international rights treaties Pakistan has to ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18, but there are no listenings nor implementations, unfortunately,” said Naveed Walter.

London-based Anila Gulzar, spokeswoman for Justice for Minorities in Pakistan slammed a judge who ruled that Arzoo Raja was old enough to make her own decision.

She said, “This is very unfortunate that minorities in Pakistan have no place. They are not even secure. As per the law, those who are involved in forced and underage marriages have to face three years of punishment. But, when this case was presented in the court, the judge ruled that Arzoo Raja was old enough to make her own decision.”

“Why no voice is being raised against the minorities in Pakistan? Human rights activists and politicians are silent over the atrocities being committed against the minorities. Even in courts, there is no justice for the victims,” said Anila Gulzar.

(With ANI inputs)

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