IHC forms commission to probe Ghotki sisters' alleged abduction, forced conversion

Conducting inquiry is the government's responsibility not the courts, observes Justice Minallah

Saqib Bashir April 02, 2019
Islamabad High Court. PHOTO: IHC WEBSITE

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday formed a five-member commission to probe the alleged abduction, forced conversion and marriage of two teenage Hindu girls in Ghotki.

A high court bench led by Chief Justice of IHC Athar Minallah heard the petition filed by Reena, Raveena and their alleged spouses, Safdar Ali and Barkat Ali, to seek protection. In their plea, the girls had said that they belong to a Hindu family of Ghotki, Sindh but converted willfully as they were impressed by Islamic teaching.

The incident came to light when a video surfaced online showing the teenagers’ father and brother claiming the girls were abducted and forcefully converted. It was followed by another video snippet in which the two girls claimed that they had converted to Islam. It was reported that the girls were moved from Sindh Ghotki district to Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab.

Taking notice of the incident, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed Sindh and Punjab to investigate the matter and recover the girls if the forceful conversion allegation was correct.

Courts orders custody for Ghotki girls

During the hearing, the chief justice noted the increasing number of forced conversion cases from Ghotki. He was irked at the governments’ failure to find a solution. “Why are such incidents repeatedly being reported from one district of the Sindh province?”

He said the perception that minorities’ rights were not protected has to be changed.

When speaking about the rights of minorities, Justice Minallah referenced the recent terror incident in New Zealand’s Christchurch that martyred at least 50 Muslims and the Jessica Arden-led government’s response.

Addressing member National Assembly Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, he questioned why the matter was not raised in the parliament. To which, Vankwani said he will bring the House’s attention to it.

The counsel for the girls’ parents asserted that the case pertained to forced conversion. Justice Minallah sought recommendations to resolve the matter.

The matter requires transparent inquiry – it is the government’s job to conduct probes not the judiciary’s, he observed.

Two girls allegedly kidnapped in Sindh's Ghotki district

The chief justice said the court had to ensure that there was no forced conversion. The bench formed a five-member commission to probe the matter. The commission includes Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, Mufti Taqi Usmani, Dr Mehdi, Advocate IA Rahman and chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women Khawar Mumtaz.

The federal government has been tasked to organise meeting of the commission.

Until the inquiry is completed, the high court has ordered for the girls to remain in state custody. They are currently being housed at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Crisis Centre in Islamabad.

The high court summoned reports sought by the premier and adjourned the hearing till April 11.

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