Sindh High Court ruled on 9 November that Pakistani Christian girl Arzoo Raja is a minor and declared that her “marriage” to her Muslim abductor is illegal.
A division bench directed that Arzoo be taken back to a safe shelter and ordered police to proceed against her alleged “husband”, Azhar Ali, for violating the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013, which prohibits the marriage of any child under the age of 18.
The bench observed that a medical board had determined Arzoo to be aged between 14 and 15, while the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) record showed she is 13, as stated by her parents.
The next hearing on 23 November will decide whether Arzoo converted to Islam of her own free will, given her age. Lawyer Jibran Nasir, who is acting on behalf of Arzoo’s parents, said, “At this stage only [the] question of child marriage has been addressed and resolved.”
Nasir said they suspected Arzoo had been threatened and was concerned for the safety of her parents, which may have led her to tell the court that she had not been kidnapped and had willingly married Azhar Ali.
Arzoo’s parents say Azhar Ali, who is in his 40s and is already married, snatched their daughter from the family home in Karachi’s Railway Colony on 13 October. They claim he faked papers to show she was 18 before pressurising her to convert to Islam and forcing her into marriage.
From Barnabas Fund contacts and other sources