LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered police to book an assistant sub-inspector for keeping a Christian minor girl in illegal detention and forcing her to embrace Islam.
The orders came on Thursday after the 13-year-old girl was recovered by the court bailiff from the residence of ASI Munir Ahmed in Hafizabad and presented in court.
The minor told Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan that she wanted to go with her mother – the petitioner Elizabeth Arif.
Youhanabad lynching: Christian suspects asked to convert in return for release
The judge sent the girl with her mother and directed her to file an application to register an FIR against the accused and his accomplices, if any.
Munir’s lawyer told the court the minor girl had embraced Islam and the policeman with his family was looking after her.
The petitioner’s counsel, Tahir Bashir, contended the girl was forced to embrace Islam and even if she had converted to Islam, the religion did not allow a girl to live with a stranger.
When the judge asked the girl if she wanted to go with her mother or the respondents, she replied she wanted to go with her mother and went quiet, overawed by the court atmosphere.
The ASI’s counsel claimed the girl’s response showed she did want to live with her mother and only said yes in her mother’s presence.
The judge then allowed the girl to make the choice on her own, at which the respondent’s lawyer started shouting the minor was under duress. At this, Justice Shahzad judge told the petitioner’s counsel to file an application to book the ASI for keeping the girl in illegal detention.
Once outside the courtroom, the girl was seen repeatedly asking her mother to take her home. Talking to The Express Tribune, she said the policeman and his family had asked her to embrace Islam. “I want to live with my mother and siblings,” the girl, who is a Grade-VIII student, said.
Elizabeth told The Express Tribune the ASI lived in their neighbourhood in Hafizabad while his sister-in-law Mariam Bibi used to come to her house often.
Christian man accused of forcibly converting minor girl to Islam
“One day, the girl quarrelled with Mariam, who took advantage of the situation to entice the minor to the ASI’s house,” the petitioner said. “When I went there to take her, the policeman and his wife Muqadas Bibi not only refused to return her daughter but also insulted her.”
One day, when Munir was not home, Elizabeth succeeded in bringing the girl back to her house. But as soon as the ASI returned, he came to the petitioner’s house and forcibly took away the minor with him, claiming the girl was a Muslim now and cannot live with a Christian family.
The policeman later sent the girl to another city. He had returned a few days ago when Elizabeth filed a petition in the LHC for her recovery. The girl was illegally detained by Munir and his family since December 6 last year.
Advocate Tahir told The Express Tribune his client would file an application for registration of FIR against Munir, his wife and sister-in-law who all kept the girl in illegal detention.
The Punjab Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2016, pending with the Punjab Assembly, proposes that no one aged below 18 years shall be deemed to have changed their religion. A law adopted by the Sindh Assembly in November last year applies same conditions for religious conversions.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2017.
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