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Image: BPCA Friend Cllr Sham Lal, met with the family of the kidnapped girls on our behalf. L-R Clr Sham Lall (46 yrs), Abji Mother of the sisters (48 yrs), Father Hari Das (60 yrs) and brother Shamaan Das (30 yrs)
Two Hindu sisters who converted to Islam and their alleged rapist husbands will be provided security by the federal government, the Islamabad High Court ruled on Tuesday.
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Holi is an ancient festival popularly known as the "festival of love", or the "festival of colours". It is a celebration steeped in ancient beliefs and customs, at it's core it is about the victory of good over evil, rekindling broken relationships, and the coming of Spring. Although it's origins are Hindu in nature many people of different backgrounds take to the streets to throw a myriad of brightly coloured powders at each other in carefree fun. However, this usually bright and joyful celebration turned dark for one unsuspecting family.
On Wed April 3 in the town of Daharki which is located in the Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, young Raveena Kumari (16) and her sister Reena Kumari (14) were innocently enjoying the eve of Holi, unaware of the potential danger they were in. Unfortunately for them two Muslim men used the distraction of the festival as an opportunity to kidnap both Raveena and Reena.
As word spread about the kidnapping a near-by hindu town rallied together in an act of outrage, blocking off highways and protesting against the abduction of these two young girls.
Raveena and Reena's family claim that people from the Kohbar and Malik tribes are responsible for the girl's kidnapping. Chaman Lal, a resident of the town Drakki, told Mehwish Bhatti a BPCA reporter, that armed men attacked his house Wednesday and kidnapped his 14 and 15 year old sisters. When Chaman Lal and his family reported the crime to the police they were met with resistance.
Hindu leaders haven't been silent about abduction of these young girls, but even they were also met with resistance from police
“We have approached the police in order to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) but it all has been in vain.” said Chaman Lal
The incident took an even darker turn after a video was uploaded on social media which appeared to show the Reena and Raveena converting to Islam. Both the sisters showed signs of being under duress in the video. Human rights activists have claimed that this is another case of forced conversion and abduction, which are becoming increasingly common in the southern region of Sindh.
Mukhi Shiv Menghwar, added:
“It was not free will when the girls were firstly kidnapped and then forcibly converted."
Friend of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Sham Lal a Hindu local tehsil (district) Councillor met with the family of the victims. With the help of the BPCA the parents of the two girls were able to challenge local Police to register an FIR, through brother of the abductees Shamaan Das (30 yrs), after we paid for a petition to be submitted to the Bhawalpur High Court on 25th March 2019. BPCA also paid for a medical examination of the two girls which forms a significant part of the evidence for the case and a police investigation ensued.
Mother of the two kidnapped girls Ajbi (48 yrs) has been beset with a deep depression veering on suicidal.
Mother of the two sisters Ajbi, said:
"If my two daughters are not returned to me I will commit suicide as a political statement - this injustice to Hindu women cannot be allowed to continue."
The case was moved to Islamabad High Court after a petition was submitted for protection of the girls was submitted to Islamabad Court by the men who had forcibly married the children.
On Tuesday 11th April 2019 a bench, headed by Islamabad High Court (IHC), Chief Justice Athar Minallah, heard the girls' petition asking for protection. The young sisters said that they converted to Islam of their own free will and should be given protection in a video that was shared on international media which showed one of the sisters weeping excessively as she gave her testimony. However the tear-filled testimony did little to sway the judiciary who declared that medical evidence suggested both girls were 18 despite submitted birth certificates to the contrarary. The court also stateed that the sisters had lawfully accepted Islam, based on their given testimonies which BPCA and the parents feel is based on pressure applied by the powerful rapists and their cohorts and threats to kill the young girls' families.
The court ruled that the young women can't be taken to Sindh till their case has been heard. A female Superintendant Police (SP) should ensure their security, the court ordered. The women, identified as Asiya aka Raveena and Nadia aka Reena, and their husbands have been handed into the custody of the Islamabad Deputy Commissioner. They have set the next hearing for the case to be heard at High Court on 14th May 2019
"The government should provide all types of protection to the young women", the court said. Justice Athar Minullah said that it is an extremely sensitive case.
All respondents in the case have been asked to submit their replies too. The respondents include Ramesh Kumar, Harilal, Sindh Inspector General (IG), interior ministry, Sindh Chief Minister, Human Rights Ministry, Chief Secretary, the Sindh government and the federal government.
Islamabad High Court has ordered the federal government to submit a detailed report on the case too.
Their husbands, Barkat and Shafaqat, have filed a bail petition in the court too. Their lawyer, Umair Baloch, submitted the petition. An FIR has been registered against them, the petition says. The police should be stopped from arresting them.
The brother of the young women, Shaman Daas, had registered a case against six people at the Ghotki police station on March 21. Safdar Malik, Barkat Ali and Aman Shah have been named in the case. Three unidentified men have been mentioned too, said Investigating Officer (IO) Sahabuddin.
The case had been adjourned till April 2, Tuesday
The family of the two girls claim that they were kidnapped and forcibly converted and married to Muslim men. Shaman Daas submitted a petition in the Lahore High Court’s Bahawalpur division bench for the recovery of his sisters. He submitted the birth certificates of the Ghotki girls to the court. Daas said his sisters –Raveena and Reena—are underage as they are aged 13 and 15 years.
“If Nikkah is permissible at this age under the Pakistani law, my family will accept the Nikkah of the two girls,” Shaman said.
The birth certificate shows Raveena was born in 2004 and Reena in 2006. Shaman Daas reached Bahawalpur along with his lawyers. “We came to Bahawalpur as we were told that the girls will be produced before the court in Bahawalpur,” he said. But, they haven’t been produced so far, he said.
Wilson Chowdhry, President of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"These two sisters must be allowed to return to their families even if for a short while so that they can see that the brutal rapists cannot hurt the families.
"They must be allowed to see that their families care about them and will protect them."
"We have been able to help the family due to friendship with Cllr Sham Lal. However if minorities are to beat the scourge of extremism there must be increased working together amongst Hindus and Christians."
"The kidnapping of Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan, has reached new heights.
"In 2014, Muslim NGO Movement of Solidarity and Peace reported that 700 Christian girls and 300 Hindu girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year, a figure that both Christian and Hindu groups believe to be conservative.
"The declining population of Christians and Hindus is believed to be due to the severe persecution that both communities face in Pakistan, of which the forced marriage of their women is said to be a significant factor - without wives how can Christian and Hindu men reproduce?
"Every elected government has failed to address this growing social malaise despite new marriage laws such as the Hindu Marriage Laws 2017, that outlaw bigamy reducing the risk of Hindu women becoming second wives for Muslim rapists.
"If anything there seems to be little political will to cahneg the situation. Most minority MP's disempowered by their weakened status as selected rather than elected Members of Parliament under Pakistan's dual voting system, cave-in to the demands of their Muslim parties who have been hijacked by extremists.
"Atempts by the BPCA and many other NGO's to challenge for a raising of the legal consent for marriage in Pakistan from 16 - 18 have failed, but even then such laws would provide limited succour in a country where the Muslim population are not sexually deviant but sexually depraved.
"The new marriage laws have stiffened the penalty for offenders from a minimum of 3 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 rupees (£2700), to a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 10 years. They also face a fine of up to one million rupees (£5400), however this has deterred the sexual predators little.
"More must be done to raise awareness of these laws and the penalties to thwart would-be rapists - the governemt and judiciary must ensure offenders are convicted and sentenced!"
"Laws such as Section 365-B of the Pakistan Penal Code which delegitimises a marriage under duress or force, or the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, or the Christian Marriage Act of 1872 under which a married Christian woman forced to marry a Muslim remains married to her Christian husband - must be enforced.
"Islamic institutions, law enforcement, and the judiciary are, by and large, biased towards a Muslim who has converted a non-Muslim, huge pressure is placed on them by the Islamist lobby which is rife in Pakistan - more mst be done to free the nation from extremism.
"Coercion and duress of victims must be taken into account and Christian and HIndu women should be returned to their families in the first instance and not sent to Darul Aman (womens shelters).
"There is evidence of duress being applied and the many Darul Aman's across the country by bribed or Islamist wardens and by perpetrators and their cohorts who are given illegal access to protected women. Worse still young women have spoken about the lack of contact woith family contributing to a fear that their family will be hurt leading to women choosing a life of sexual slavery in order to protect loved ones.
"Though it is illega for a Muslim to marry a Christian women under the Christian Marriage Act - especially after she is married, time and time again a Muslim Nikkah Nama (marriage certificate) will overide secular laws as pressure swells for Sharia law implementation .
"Imams across the nation call for Muslim men to rape and convert minority women through Islamic Marriage stating a special place in heaven will be awarded for such an honourable deed.
"Worse still Ulema Councils fail to support victims despite the common ocurence of underage marriages stating that their is no minimum age for converting to Islam.
"All the above has means that minority women are discriminated against for their faith, discriminated for their gender and may also be discriminated for their social status which can often be one of low caste and social deprivation.
"If Imran Khan really wants to promote a 'Naya (new) Pakistan' this diabolical concern mst be made a priority or Pakistan's international pariah status will only sink to it's lowest nadir.
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The family desperately need an experienced lawyer which will cost £1500 as the case has gone to High Court and may go to Supreme Court. If you would like to donate please (click here)
Chairman of the Hindu Human Rights Group, Ranbir Singh, said:
"The Hindu Human Rights Group have partnered with BPCA on many projects and value their experience and honesty.
"We endorse the appeal by BPCA and call on our members to help with donations.
"BPCA have agreed to be accountable to HHRG for any donations members send that are copied into us.
"We hope collaboratively to secure the funds for a decent lawyer so the two sisters can be set free from their captors.
"Any prolonged seperation of the young teenagers from their parents should incite global disgust towards Pakistan.
"Western governments must now intervene on behalf of this beleaguered family to calm the community polarisation in their realms, that inaction exacerbates.
Today HHRG will place this appeal on their facebook and website