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State to take over custody of Ghotki girls

26 March, 2019

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday, while hearing a petition filed by two Ghotki sisters who were allegedly forcibly converted from Hindusim and married to Muslim men, ordered the state to take over custody of the girls and ensure their safety.

The petition filed by the girls and their spouses Safdar Ali and Barkat Ali sought protection from adverse action. It said that the girls left their home on March 20. On March 22, after announcing that they had willingly converted, the girls sought legal help.

According to the petition, the two girls were born in a Hindu family and converted because they were impressed by Islamic teachings. It claimed that they did not inform their family because of threats to their lives.

They claimed that MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani and Hari Lal from the Hindu Council had concocted a false and fabricated story about their forceful conversion.

The petitioners subsequently left their native town of Ghotki in Sindh and travelled to Khanpur in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab. They travelled to Islamabad after learning that the inspector general of Sindh and Punjab were planning an operation in Khanpur against them and, the petition claimed, feared that the police may kill them if they are apprehended to show "progress" to the governing party.

They asked the court to restrain the respondent authorities ─ the state minister for interior, Sindh chief minister, inspectors general of Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad police, MNA Vankwani and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) ─ from "harassing" and "threatening" them, as well as requesting that Pemra be asked to refrain from "promoting propaganda" against the petitioners.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition in Courtroom 1, where both girls and their alleged spouses were also present. The judge ordered the state to take over custody of the girls, and they were subsequently handed over to the deputy commissioner (DC) Islamabad.

"DC sahab, until the final report is submitted, they will remain your guests," Justice Minallah said. Justice Minallah also ordered the determination of the girls' age and instructed the provision of security to them to ensure their safety.

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