Ghotki girls’ father seeks age test in 'forced conversion' case

Updated April 02, 2019

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The father of the two Hindu girls who converted to Islam before marrying Muslims filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Monday for determination of their ages and psychological tests. — AFP/File
The father of the two Hindu girls who converted to Islam before marrying Muslims filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Monday for determination of their ages and psychological tests. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The father of the two Hindu girls who converted to Islam before marrying Muslims filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Monday for determination of their ages and psychological tests.

Hari Lal, father of Ravina and Reena, requested the IHC to constitute a medical board “for determination of the exact age” of the two girls. Another prayer in the petition was that the government “conduct psychological test … to ascertain their mental capability/state of mind and for diagnosis of Stockholm syndrome”.

Stockholm syndrome has been defined as the “feeling of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor”.

Take a look:The truth about forced conversions in Thar

Hari Lal, the petitioner, contended that Safdar Ali and Barkat Ali kidnapped his daughters on March 20. Lal’s son has lodged an First Information Report (FIR) with a police station at Dherki, in Ghotki district of Sindh.

Read:Notice taken of alleged forced conversion, underage marriages of 2 minor girls in Ghotki: Fawad

According to Hari Lal, Ravina and Reena are minor girls. The family chart annexed with the petition shows that Ravina and Reena are among eight children of Lal and that they were born in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

The petition stated that the constitution of a medical board was necessary to determine the girls’ exact ages. “For this purpose, it is requested that an ossification test on the shoulder joints of the girls as well as their bone test may verify their ages.”

It said that “there is also likelihood that the girls might have developed Stockholm syndrome, and consequently developed sympathy for their captors, Safdar Ali and Barkat Ali”.

The Islamabad High Court’s Chief Justice, Athar Minallah, took up a case related to the two girls and handed over their custody to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women Crisis Centre.

He appointed legal human rights activists as amici curiae (friends of court) for assistance.

The court observed that “the conversion to Islam and contracting marriage by the petitioners has given rise to controversies regarding alleged forced conversions, particularly in the province of Sindh. The matter is of public importance in the context of enforcement of fundamental rights of the minorities”.

Regarding the conversion controversy, the court observed that “the alleged impression of forced conversion, therefore, needs to the probed by both the federal and provincial government of Sindh in a fair and transparent manner”.

Read:Forced conversions

The Islamabad High Court ordered that Ravina and Reena be shifted to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women Crisis Centre, where they will stay till the next date of hearing, April 2 (today).

Hassan Mangi, the director general, Ministry of Human Rights, and SP Sumera were asked to ensure proper care and safety of the girls.

Chief Justice Minallah will resume hearing of the case on Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2019