A Pakistani High Court on Thursday declared that the two Hindu teenage sisters were not forcibly converted from Hinduism to Islam, and permitted them to live with their spouses, according to a media report.
The two girls, Raveena (13) and Reena (15), and their spouses petitioned the Islamabad High Court on March 25 against alleged harassment by police days after their father and brother alleged that the girls were underage, abducted, forced into changing their religion, and then married off to Muslim men.
In their plea, the girls claimed that they belong to a Hindu family of Ghotki, Sindh but converted willfully as they were impressed by Islamic teaching, Dawn reported.
The counsel for the girls’ parents, however, asserted that the case pertained to forced conversion.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah constituted a five-member commission to probe whether the conversion of the Hindu sisters to Islam was forced or otherwise.
The commission comprising Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, prominent Muslim scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan, National Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz and veteran journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman probed the matter and concluded that it was not a forced conversion, the report said.
The secretary interior, Azam Suleman, apprised the the high court about the findings of the commission, and told the court that as per the commission’s opinion, it was a facilitated conversion, the report said.
Mr. Rehman pointed out in court that “there is no law in Pakistan against forced conversions” and sought a court decree in this regard.
Mr. Minallah remarked that the case of the Ghotki sisters was a simple one and would have been decided in a day or so, but a commission comprising eminent professionals and scholars was constituted keeping in view the sensitivity of the case since “the court wanted to ensure this was not a forced conversion”.
Regarding the issue of forced conversions, the court sought the commission’s recommendations within four weeks and adjourned the case until May 14.
The teenage sisters were allegedly kidnapped by a group of “influential” men from their home in Ghotki district in Sindh on the eve of Holi. Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls, triggering a nationwide outrage.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also ordered probe to ascertain if the two girls were abducted and forcibly converted and married.
A war of words broke out between India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry over the reported abduction, forced conversion and underage marriages of the two Hindu teenagers.
The spat started soon after Ms. Swaraj sought details from the Indian envoy in Pakistan into the reported abduction of two Hindu teenaged girls.
Ms. Swaraj tweeted that she has asked the Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan to send a report on the matter.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. Majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province.
According to media reports, approximately 25 forced marriages take place every month only in Umerkot district in Sindh province.