Ghotki sisters not forcibly converted, allowed to live with husbands: IHC

11 Apr 2019

Email

The Islamabad High Court has ruled that the two sisters from Ghotki were not forcibly converted, and has allowed them to live with their spouses. ─ File photo
The Islamabad High Court has ruled that the two sisters from Ghotki were not forcibly converted, and has allowed them to live with their spouses. ─ File photo

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday declared that the two sisters from Ghotki were not forcibly converted from Hinduism to Islam, and permitted them to live with their spouses.

The sisters and their spouses had petitioned the IHC on March 25 against alleged harassment by police days after their father and brother, in videos circulating on social media last month, alleged that the two sisters were underage, had been abducted, forced into changing their religion, and then married off to Muslim men.

However, a separate video of the 'minor' girls had also made the rounds in which they said that they accepted Islam of their own free will.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had constituted a five-member commission to probe whether the conversion of the Hindu sisters to Islam was forced or otherwise. During an earlier hearing, the court had also ordered that the two be shifted to a shelter home in Islamabad.

The commission comprising Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, prominent Muslim scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan, National Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz and veteran journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman had probed the matter and concluded that it was not a forced conversion.

The secretary interior, Azam Suleman, apprised the IHC about the findings of the commission, and told the court that as per the commission's opinion, it was a facilitated conversion.

I.A. Rehman pointed out in court that "there is no law in Pakistan against forced conversions" and sought a court decree in this regard.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Ramesh Kumar, when invited to the rostrum, wanted the IHC to issue directives to the government for the amendment of laws related to the protection of minorities.

Take a look: Fawad Chaudhry, Sushma Swaraj spar over alleged abduction, forced conversion of Ghotki sisters

Justice Minallah expressed displeasure, saying that he feels embarrassed when parliamentarians express helplessness to legislate. He remarked that the case of the Ghotki sisters was a simple one and would have been decided in a day or so, but a commission comprising eminent professionals and scholars had been constituted keeping in view the sensitivity of the case since "the court wanted to ensure this was not a forced conversion".

Interior secretary Suleman also told the court that a medical board constituted to ascertain the age of the sister had concluded that they are adults aged 18 and 19 years.

Earlier, a medical report prepared by the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) had also stated that Asia (formerly Raveena) is 19-years-old and Nadia (formerly Reena) is 18-years-old.

The commission in its report pointed out that there is an unregulated facilitation centre for religious conversions and recommended that it be regulated.

Justice Minallah observed that the court's ruling today would not affect any proceeding litigation pending against the spouses of the sisters in any other court.

Regarding the issue of forced conversions, the court sought the commission's recommendations within four weeks and adjourned the case until May 14.