SHC orders police to recover and shift 13-year-old Arzoo to shelter home

Intervener will be filed on my behalf, says minister for human rights

NEWS DESK November 02, 2020
Sindh High Court building. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari on Monday said a local court in Karachi has ordered the police and relevant agencies to recover and shift Arzoo Masih, a teenage Christian girl who was allegedly abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and then wed to a 44-year-old man, to a shelter home.

“Next hearing fixed for Thursday morning,” Mazari said on Twitter. “My lawyer has informed [the] court that an intervener will be filed on my behalf.”

A day earlier, the court had dismissed a plea seeking the issuance of orders to send Masih to a shelter home after Raja, the father of the girl, had moved the application wherein he prayed upon the court to send her to a shelter home instead of sending her with her alleged husband, adding that she was not safe with him.

His lawyer, Jibran Nasir, had pointed out that Arzoo was only 13 years old and the provisions of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013, had been incorporated by the police. He further stated that the Sindh High Court (SHC) had not restrained the trial court from exercising powers in line with the law, pleading the magistrate to shift the girl to safety.

Setting aside the plea, South judicial magistrate Muhammad Ali Dall stated in the order that SHC, in its order of October 27, had already directed the Preedy SHO to provide protection to Arzoo.

However, prior to its ruling, the court, on Nasir's request, ordered the investigation officer (IO), Inspector Shariq Ahmed Siddiqui, to verify Arzoo's birth certificate and B-form through the National Database and Regulatory Authority (NADRA).

At this, the IO produced documents already verified by NADRA and confirmed that as claimed by the girl's family, her age was 13 years.

"This is the first time the IO produced verified documents before the court," Nasir later told The Express Tribune.

According to Raja, Arzoo was kidnapped on from their house in Railway Quarters, in the limits of the Preedy police. "We have been living in the area for the past 10 years," he said, adding that Syed Ali Azhar, the man accused of kidnapping and marrying Arzoo, was above 40 years of age.

According to Raja, the kidnapper lived near their house and was a Sindh government employee. He added that Azhar had abducted Arzoo with the help of his brothers, Mohsin and Shariq, and a friend.

In October, a judicial magistrate had granted bail to Azhar's brothers and friend, while the SHC restrained the police from arresting Azhar himself.

Later, Nasir criticised the magistrate's ruling, tweeting, "[It is] extremely unfortunate that the magistrate [is] ignoring mandatory provisions of law and specific powers given to him for protection of children. [He] refused to issue search warrants in view of [the SHC] order. Such perverse interpretations hurt citizens.

Any harm caused to Arzoo is on the judges now."

According to Nasir, he plans to file a petition on Arzoo's parents' behalf, seeking the implementation of the child marriage act and the girl's recovery.

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