A Karachi court was told on Friday that the marriage between underage Christian girl Arzoo Raza, who has reportedly converted to Islam, with her Muslim husband was permissible under the federal laws and the Shariah.
This stance was taken by the defence counsel for Syed Ali Azhar, the purported husband of Arzoo Raja.
Police have booked Azhar, his brothers Syed Mohsin Ali and Syed Shariq Ali, and their friend Danish for allegedly kidnapping the 13-year-old girl and forcing her to contract the marriage.
They also booked cleric Qazi Abdul Rasool, Junaid Ali Siddiqui and Mehmood Hassan as suspects for facilitating and solemnising the underage marriage. They are currently on interim pre-arrest bail.
On Friday, the matter came up before judicial magistrate (south) Muhammad Ali Dall for arguments on the charge-sheet submitted by the investigating officer on the last date of hearing.
Defence counsel Nizar Tanoli argued that the marriage of his client Azhar with Arzoo was lawful under the provisions of the Majority Act, 1875, under which any citizen upon reaching the age of 18 years would be considered as major. Any citizen under 18 years of age would be considered a minor, but there is no bar on the marriage of a minor, he added.
The counsel further contended that under the Muhammadan Law as well as Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, any citizen could contract marriage upon attaining puberty.
Tanoli maintained that the marriage of Arzoo and Azhar was lawful under the federal laws as well as the Shariah laws.
Regarding the application of the provisions of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013, the counsel contended that the SCMRA was not applicable in the present case since it was a provincial law, which was superseded by the federal law as well as the Shariah laws.
He maintained that Arzoo had recorded her statement before the Sindh High Court (SHC), clearly stating that she converted to Islam out of her own choice and contracted marriage out of her freewill.
Advocate Tanoli further maintained that since marriage of his client with the girl was in accordance to the laws and Shariah, therefore, physical relations between them were legitimate. Therefore, this is not a case of rape at all, he concluded.
After hearing arguments from the defence counsel, the judge fixed the matter for Dec 1 to hear arguments from the complainant’s counsel.
In the FIR of the case registered on the complaint of Arzoo's father, Raja, he claims that on October 13, he and his wife went to work while their son Shahbaz had gone to school.
Raja said his three daughters, including Arzoo, were present at their home in Karachi's Railway Colony when he received a call from a relative, who told him that Arzoo was missing.
Raja said he reached home and contacted his 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.
Currently, the girl is living in a shelter home on the directives of the Sindh High Court (SHC).