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ISLAMABAD: Two men accused of forcefully converting and marrying underage girls have filed a petition, alongside their minor ‘wives’, in the Islamabad High Court seeking protection from adverse action.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah will hear the petition today (Tuesday) in Courtroom 1.

The government took notice of this controversy on Saturday after two separate videos were circulated on social media in which the girls’ father and brother said they were abducted and forcefully converted from Hinduism to Islam.

A separate video of the girls in question has also been circulated in which they claim they converted of their free will.

The police have detained seven people, including the marriage officiator – also called the nikah khwan, suspected of involvement in the abduction, forced conversion and underage marriage of the two sisters in Ghotki.

The petition has been filed by the two girls and their alleged spouses, Safdar Ali and Barkat Ali. It cites the state minister for interior, Sindh chief minister, inspectors general of Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad police, MNA Ramesh Vankwani and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) as respondents.

The petitioners have asked the court to restrain the respondent authorities from “harassing” and “threatening” them, as well as requesting that Pemra be asked to refrain from “promoting propaganda” against the petitioners.

According to the petition, the two girls were born in a Hindu family and converted because they were impressed by Islamic teachings. It claims they did not inform their family because of consequential threats to their lives.

The petition said that the girls left their home on March 20, and claimed that MNA Vankwani and Hari Lal from the Hindu Council concocted a false and fabricated story about their forceful conversion.

The petitioners subsequently left their native town of Ghotki in Sindh and travelled to Khanpur in Rahimyar Khan, Punjab.

The petition said that on March 22, after announcing that they had willingly converted, the girls sought legal help. They travelled to Islamabad after learning that the inspector general of Sindh and Punjab were planning an operation in Khanpur against them and, the petition claims, feared that the police may kill them if they are apprehended to show “progress” to the governing party.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2019