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Pak court tells govt to take custody of 2 minor Hindu girls forced to marry

On Sunday, Pakistani police arrested seven people from Punjab province allegedly involved in arranging the marriage of the Hindu girls. A case of kidnapping was also registered in Sindh province.

world Updated: Mar 26, 2019 20:35 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad and Rezaul H Laskar
Imtiaz Ahmad and Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, Islamabad/New Delhi 
The girls were later sent to a shelter home in Islamabad, and the high court directed a senior woman police officer should be appointed to ensure their safety.
The girls were later sent to a shelter home in Islamabad, and the high court directed a senior woman police officer should be appointed to ensure their safety.(REUTERS)
         

A Pakistani court ordered the state on Tuesday to take custody of two minor Hindu girls allegedly forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men even as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called for the teenagers to be reunited with their family.

The Islamabad high court, which was hearing a petition filed by the two sisters from Ghotki in Sindh province and the Muslim men who had allegedly married them, said the state should ensure the safety of the girls till their case is decided.

The girls were later sent to a shelter home in Islamabad, and the high court directed a senior woman police officer should be appointed to ensure their safety.

The high court also accepted a plea by the men who allegedly married them to be granted protective bail. The men said they had been named in an FIR and their arrests should be stopped.

The petition said the girls had left their home on March 20 and sought legal help after announcing two days later that they had willingly converted.

However, rights activists and relatives of the girls said they were abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. Swaraj and Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry sparred on Twitter over the weekend after the external affairs minister sought a report on the matter from the Indian envoy in Islamabad.

“Justice demands that both these girls should be restored to their family immediately,” Swaraj tweeted on Tuesday. Referring to the “forced conversion” of the teenagers, she said the age of the girls “is not disputed” – one named Raveena “is only 13” and the other named Reena “is 15 years old”.

“Even the Prime Minister (of) Naya Pakistan will not believe that girls of this tender age can voluntarily decide about their conversion to another religion and marriage,” Swaraj tweeted, referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stated policy of building a “naya” or new Pakistan.

People familiar with developments said Swaraj had taken on the Pakistan government on the issue largely because of Khan taking pot shots at the treatment of minorities in India over the past few months.

In recent speeches and public remarks, Khan has raked up what he described as the oppression of Muslims and Kashmiris in India as well as attacks on minorities. India’s foreign ministry has rejected Khan’s remarks and said Pakistan should be the “last country…to lecture us on the topic of plurality and inclusive society”.

On Sunday, Pakistani police arrested seven people from Punjab province allegedly involved in arranging the marriage of the Hindu girls. A case of kidnapping was also registered in Sindh province.

During the hearing in Islamabad high court, when Chief Justice Athar Minallah enquired about the age of the girls, their lawyer said one of them was 20 years old. “This is an extremely sensitive issue. Pakistan’s international standing is tied to it… Ensuring the rights of minorities is our responsibility,” Minallah was quoted as saying by the local media.

Senator Krishna Kumari made a request to the interior ministry on Tuesday to meet the girls as a representative of the Hindu community. Kumari said it was also important to meet the girls’ parents to establish the facts.

Shaman Das, the girls’ brother, also approached the Lahore high court’s Bahawalpur bench seeking the immediate recovery of his sisters. He said in his petition his sisters are minors. The petition will be heard on Wednesday.

First Published: Mar 26, 2019 20:22 IST

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