ASIA/PAKISTAN - Civil society protests and an appeal is launched to the authorities for the abduction of a Catholic girl

Saturday, 24 October 2020 human rights   religious minorities   christianity   violence   civil society  

Karachi (Agenzia Fides) – To protest and ask for the intervention of the authorities for the abduction and forced conversion of Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old minor girl resident of Railway Colony of Karachi City: this is the purpose of the demonstration organized by citizens of Karachi, Christians, Hindus and Muslims, gathered today, 24 October, at Karachi Press Club. Those present deplored yet another episode of violence against a Christian girl: On the morning of 13th October 2020 Arzoo went out to the shop and never returned. She was kidnapped, converted to Islam and married her 44-year-old abductor, a Muslim (see Fides, 21 and 22 October 2020).
The protest was organized and led by the "National Peace Committee Interfaith Harmony" in collaboration with the other Human Rights and civil society and political party groups. The
protesters chanted slogans for the girl's return to the family and the punishment of the kidnappers.
Nasir Raza, Chairman of the Committee in the Sindh region, said: "We demand justice for Arzoo Raja and also demand for the effective measures to be taken immediately for the protection of non-Muslim girls. Ali Azhar, abductor of the girl, a 44 year old man should be arrested and punished for abducting a minor girl, and forcing her to conversion of religion and for marrying him". The episode goes against the Child Protection Act and the Child Marriage Act, "and is enough to punish the abductors also in this whole process of making the fake documents and marriage certificate".
Anthony Naveed, member of the Provincial Assembly of Sindh, representative of the Pakistan People's Party, at the head of a committee formed by the Catholic Church and the Church of Pakistan, speaking to Fides, said: "The hearing of the case has begun and the judge will soon issue an order. We have submitted documents to the court certifying that Arzoo Raja is a minor. The abductor's defenders submitted the documents to attest the girl's free will for her conversion to Islam and marriage. We contest these false statements".
Asad Butt, vice Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Karachi said: "Every human being has the right to freedom, nobody can be forced to change religion and marry anyone. The case should be dealt with under the Child Marriage Act. Everyone involved in this incident should be punished according to the law".
Sabir Michael, a human and minority rights activist comments to Fides: "It is alarming to see the rise in the cases of abduction and forced conversion, especially regarding women belonging to religious minorities. We strongly condemn this episode and urge the government of Pakistan and the government of Sindh to make every possible effort to protect the girls and bring justice to the victims of such cases. Such cases negatively affect the image of our country and weaken Pakistan's position in the United Nations". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 24/10/2020)