A court on Thursday granted bail to three men accused of abducting a teenage Christian girl and then forcibly converting her to Islam.
Arzoo Masih, 13, is said to have married a Muslim man, Syed Ali Azhar, 44, after converting to Islam. Police have arrested Azhar’s brothers, Syed Shariq Ali and Syed Mohsin Ali, and his friend Danish over their alleged involvement in the abduction and forced conversion.
On Thursday, the suspects moved their post-arrest bail applications before District South’s additional district and sessions judge Faiza Khalil, contending that they were innocent. Their attorney, Hidayat Ali Leghari, argued that the girl had already recorded her statement before the Sindh High Court, stating that she had accepted Islam out of her free will and had married Azhar without any fear or pressure.
He added that in view of the girl’s statement, the SHC had restrained the police from arresting Azhar and his family members. He asked the court to grant bail to his clients, all policemen. The judge, after listening to the arguments from the prosecutor as well, approved the bail applications and ordered the accused to submit sureties of Rs50,000 each with the court to secure their release.
According to the FIR, lodged by the girl’s father, Raja, Arzoo went missing on October 13 after which he approached the police to find her. Later, it transpired that she was in the custody of the suspects. The case was registered under section 364-A (kidnapping or abducting a person under the (age of fourteen) of the PPC at the Frere police station.
Earlier this week, a large number of Christian community members and civil society activists gathered outside the Karachi Press Club to protest against the incident, demanding of the government to make a law against the growing practice targeting religious minority girls.
They claimed that Arzoo was kidnapped and forced to marry her Muslim abductor in an area within the jurisdiction of the Frere police station. “We have proper evidence from Nadra that Arzoo is a 13-year-old who has been forced to be married to a 44-year-old man,” said Anthony Naveed, a minority MPA and leader of the PPP, who also attended the protest. The Sindh Assembly had passed the act in 2014, according to which the minimum age of marriage is 18 years and making a person younger than that age marry is a punishable offense.