Pakistan court places two Hindu girls in protection after ‘forced conversion’

Pakistan court places two Hindu girls in protection after ‘forced conversion’
The girls’ family has filed a police report saying the girls were abducted and forced into marriage with Muslims. (AFP/File)
Updated 26 March 2019

Pakistan court places two Hindu girls in protection after ‘forced conversion’

Pakistan court places two Hindu girls in protection after ‘forced conversion’
  • Family claims the minors were abducted and married to Muslim men after forced conversion to Islam
  • The girls said in a court petition on Monday they had converted because they were “impressed by Islamic teachings”

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Tuesday ordered the government to take custody of two teenage sisters belonging to the minority Hindu community whose family says they were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslims.
Police say the girls, both under 18 years of age, left their home in the southern town of Ghotki in Sindh province on March 20 to be married in Punjab province. Unlike Sindh, Punjab has no bar on marriages of those younger than 18. 
The girls’ family has filed a police report saying the girls were abducted and forced into marriage with Muslims. In a video circulating on social media, their father Hari Ram said his daughters were abducted and forcibly converted. In a separate video, the girls are seen saying they had accepted Islam by choice.
On Monday, police arrested seven suspects in the case, including a cleric who performed the wedding last Friday. The girls subsequently petitioned the Islamabad High Court seeking protection for themselves and their husbands, the court said in its order on Tuesday. They have been sent to separate government shelters.
In the court petition, the girls said they were born into a Hindu family and converted because they were “impressed by Islamic teachings” but did not inform their family of their decision out of fear for their lives. They said reports that they were forcefully converted were “false and fabricated.”
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition in Courtroom 1, where both girls, their alleged spouses, representatives of the federal government, Islamabad administration and Sindh police, and the director general of the Human Rights department were all present.
“This is an extremely sensitive issue,” the judge said. “Pakistan’s international standing is tied to it. Ensuring the rights of minorities is our responsibility.”
A government representative told the judge that the inquiry would be completed within a week.
“Until the final report is submitted, they [the girls] will remain your guests,” Minallah told authorities present in the courtroom.