Amid tense situation, court disapproves free-will couple’s marriage, declares convert girl ‘underage’
SUKKUR: Extraordinary security arrangements were made outside the court of the Additional Sessions Judge-II, Jacobabad, Ghulam Ali Kanasro, on Tuesday when he announced his judgement declaring Mehik Kumari alias Naniki Kumari alias Aliza underage. The judgement nullified her free-will marriage as pleaded by her family.
Mehik Kumari had reportedly embraced Islam to marry Ali Raza Solangi, a domestic servant hired by her parents. She had adopted Aliza as her Islamic name.
Kumari, a class-IX student, had left for school on Jan 15 and did not return home. Solangi also went missing that day. About a week later, police traced them out when they received intelligence report about the couple’s presence at the shrine of Amrot Sharif. The couple claimed that they had contracted a free-will marriage after Mehik embraced Islam at the shrine and was renamed as Aliza.
The judge citing the evidence and documents submitted to him declared that Mehik appeared below the age of 18 and was not fit for marriage under Sections 3 and 4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013. He asked the Larkana DIG and Jacobabad SSP to take legal action against all those involved in “conducting, facilitating, abetting such child marriage” within 24 hours.
The judge referred the matter of the girl’s custody to the judicial magistrate concerned and directed the Jacobabad deputy commissioner to arrange/identify the nearest child protection institution for temporary custody of the girl where she could be kept till her production before the judicial magistrate for a trial. The Sindh government and police were given strict directives for the safety and security of the girl during her stay in the child protection institution.
Mehik Kumari alias Aliza was brought to the court from the Larkana Darul Aman, where she was sent on court orders soon after the couple was taken into custody.
A strong contingent of police drawn from five districts was deployed around the court amid fear of unrest/violence as local leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities were present in the town in a tense atmosphere.
The access roads to the civil court were cordoned off with barbed wires at two points/main roundabouts and the area was closed to the general public.
Rangers personnel were also deployed at some distance and put on alert.
Meanwhile, a complete shutter-down was observed in Jacobabad on the call of various religious organisations. All major trade and shopping centres including Shahi Bazaar, Bano Bazaar, Cloth Market, Sarrafa Bazaar, Quaid-i-Azam Road and Tower Road wore a deserted look.
Members of the Hindu community took out a protest rally from Gaushala in protest against what they believed to be “forced conversion of Mehik Kumari”. It was led by Babu Mahesh Kumar Lakhani, Jeay Sindh Mahaz-Riaz chief Riaz Chandio, Punhal Sario, Deedar Mirani of the Rawadari Tehreek and others.
Office-bearers and activists of the Primary School Teachers Association, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and its Arisar group), Pakistan Peoples Party women wing, Sindh Sufi Sangat, Jeay Sindh Tehreek and other civil society organisations also joined in the rally attended by a large number of Hindu community members.
JUI-F leaders defend conversion
Leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) including its Jacobabad president Dr. A.G. Ansari and Hafiz Meer Mohammad Banglani, as well as Jamaat Islami (JI) Jacobabad president Deedar Ali Lashari held a press conference at Madressa Faizun Noor in Jacobabad on Tuesday to defend freewill conversion.
They said that there had been not a single case of ‘forced’ conversion at the Amrot Sharif and Bharchundi Sharif shrines having been proved.
They said Aliza should be handed over to Solangi as they had married in accordance with Sharia. However, they also did not object to the court’s decision to send Aliza to a child protection institution.
They said people would come at the shrine to embrace Islam and they were told to think twice or more before going for the conversion. They said Mehik Kumari alias Aliza was also given ample time to think over her decision before she embraced Islam. They said her parents were also allowed to meet her and she was told to feel free if she still wanted to go with them.
It was then that she embraced Islam and married off to Solangi on their free will, they added.
Regarding her age, they said the court had given the judgement according to the Constitution and law and, as such it was a right decision.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020