Islamabad [Pakistan], January 6 (ANI): Minorities Alliance Pakistan on Wednesday slammed certain portions of the order of Sindh High Court in the Arzoo Raja case saying that the order amounts to restrictions on the right of freedom of movement of minor girls as provided in the Article 15 of the Constitution and announced that they will go to the Supreme Court.
Notably, a 13-year-old Christian girl, Arzoo Raja, in October 2020 was forcibly abducted allegedly by Ali Azhar, a 44-year-old man in Karachi. She was converted and married to him.
In the order, the Sindh High Court directed Arzoo's parents to report to the station house officer (SHO) in their area, producing Arzoo before the officer every three months until she turns 18. The court stated that this was needed to ensure that the girl was being treated well by her parents, in accordance with its order, reported The News International.
In a press conference, Minorities Alliance Pakistan said "We are surprised that when Arzoo is comfortable to live with her parents, how the learned court presumed otherwise. It is observed that this restriction will keep her traumatised and will negatively affect the emotions and mental health of the minor Arzoo Raja. We are hopeful that the apex court will set a precedent regarding the issue of forced marriages, conversion of minor girls belonging to the religious minorities,"
The views were expressed by Chairman MAP Akmal Bhatti, President MAP Canada Chapter Nadeem Bhatti, Vice Chairman MAP Shamoun Gill, Abdul Hameed Rana, advocate Supreme Court, in a press conference at the National Press Club, reported The News International.
"We strongly believe that the Supreme Court will provide justice to protect the life, honour and beliefs of minority girls," the speakers said and demanded that the president and prime minister of Pakistan should play their role in passing the Prohibition of Forced Conversion Bill.
"After the return of Arzoo, our fears about the lives and honour of minor girls have been strengthened. It has become obvious to us that how police, family courts, shelter home and other justice-driven institutions, individually and collectively, discriminate against religion and influence justice through prejudice and hatred. It is extremely dangerous that the kidnappers resort to religion to escape punishment and our institutions and society become their tools," they added.
The court also directed her parents to furnish a personal bond in the sum of Rs25,000 with one surety in the like amount and give an undertaking that they would not pressurise Arzoo to change her religion as she had told the court that she had willingly converted to Islam, reported Dawn News.
Earlier, a two-judge bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC), headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, had ordered that Arzoo be shifted to a shelter home on November 9, 2020, after a medical board confirmed that she was around 14 years of age and after when she refused to go with her parents, saying she had changed her religion and contracted a marriage of her own accord, reported Dawn News.
However, on December 21, Arzoo moved an application with the SHC, seeking to return to her parents' house.
The matter was taken up by a division bench of the high court and it allowed the girl to return to her parents and stated that she would not be allowed to meet Azhar.
According to the first information report of the case registered on his complaint, Arzoo's father Raja stated that on October 13, he and his wife went to work while their son Shahbaz had gone to school. The complainant said his three daughters, including Arzoo, were present at their home in Railway Colony when he received a call from a relative, who told him that Arzoo was missing from the house, Dawn reported.
Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) said the minority girls, particularly the Christians and Hindus, are forcefully converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.
"The same day's abduction, conversion and marrying is a common practice in such cases and it has happened with Arzoo also in the same sequence," said Naveed. (ANI)