Sindh govt will approach courts to review underage Christian girl marriage case: Bilawal

30 Oct 2020

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The alleged abduction of 13-year-old Arzoo had sparked protests from human rights groups against her purported forced conversion and underage marriage with a Muslim man. — AP/File
The alleged abduction of 13-year-old Arzoo had sparked protests from human rights groups against her purported forced conversion and underage marriage with a Muslim man. — AP/File

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday said the Sindh government will approach the relevant courts to seek a review in the case of Arzoo, a teenage Christian girl who was allegedly abducted from her Karachi residence before being forcefully converted and married off to a Muslim man.

Bilawal's statement comes a day after a sessions court in Karachi granted post-arrest bail to three suspects detained for allegedly abducting Arzoo, who is said to have converted to Islam.

"GOS (Government of Sindh) will approach the courts to review the #ArzooRaja underage marriage case, clear up any misunderstanding the honourable court may have, and do everything in their power to provide justice," the PPP chairman said in a tweet.

He added that the PPP-led provincial government had passed the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act in 2013 and it will "continue to fight for it to be implemented".

The alleged abduction of 13-year-old Arzoo had sparked protests from human rights groups against her purported forced conversion and underage marriage with a Muslim man.

Read: Family narrates ordeal of ‘missing’ teenage daughter

Police claimed to have booked her purported husband Syed Ali Azhar and detained his two brothers — Syed Shariq Ali and Syed Mohsin Ali — along with his friend Danish over their alleged involvement in Arzoo's abduction on October 13. All the three detained men were said to be police officials.

On Thursday, the three detained suspects moved applications before additional district and sessions judge (South) Faiza Khalil seeking grant of post-arrest bail to them.

Their defence counsel Hidayat Ali Leghari contended that an application was filed with the judicial magistrate concerned for recording Arzoo's statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). However, the same could not be done.

He further said that later the girl purportedly recorded her statement before the Sindh High Court, in which she stated that she had embraced Islam out of her free choice and had solemnised a free-will marriage with Azhar Ali without any fear or pressure.

The counsel told the judge that in view of the reported statement of the teenage girl, the SHC had purportedly restrained police from arresting her husband Azhar Ali and his family members. Therefore, he asked the court to grant post-arrest bail to applicants Shariq Ali and Mohsin Ali, who are brothers of Azhar Ali, and Danish — all of whom are policemen.

After hearing arguments from the state prosecutor and the defence counsel, the judge granted post-arrest bail to Shariq Ali, Mohsin Ali and Danish, who is said to be posted at the Frere police station, against a surety of Rs50,000 each. The court directed the suspects to cooperate with police during the investigation of the case.

Arzoo's family members earlier this month told Dawn that her purported husband Azhar lived in a house opposite to their's along with his family and he is at least 45 years old. "The rascal who abducted her has prepared fake papers to show that she is 18 years old,” her mother said.

According to the first information report of the case registered on his complaint, Arzoo's father Raja stated that on Oct 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.

Raja said he reached home and contacted their neighbours, but could not trace his daughter. He subsequently lodged a case regarding the abduction of his daughter against unknown persons at the Frere police station.