Pakistani accused of forcibly marrying 13-year-old woman arrested | Pakistan

Azhar Ali, 44, was taken into police custody after he was accused of kidnapping, forcibly converting and marrying a 13-year-old Christian girl.

Islamabad, Pakistan – A Pakistani court has ordered police to detain a man accused of kidnapping, forcibly converting and marrying a 13-year-old Christian child until the next hearing later this week.

Azhar Ali, 44, will be tried in Sindh High Court in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on November 5, the child’s parents’ attorney told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. Court documents confirmed the development.

Aarzoo Raja’s parents have accused Ali of violating Pakistani child marriage laws and forcibly converting their child to Islam.

“The police have confirmed that they have Azhar [Ali] They brought him to court today and asked to be custody, ”said Jibran Nasir Al Jazeera over the phone.

The 13-year-old Aarzoo was taken into protective custody on Monday, the authorities said after the court ordered that she should be taken to a women’s shelter pending further investigations.

She has not been able to see her parents since she was taken into government custody, said Nasir.

This reversal comes weeks after Aarzoo’s parents filed a complaint that Ali abducted their child and forced her to convert to Islam and marry him, in a case that sparked a riot among rights groups in Pakistan.

In previous hearings, the court had accepted the validity of the “marriage” after hearing that Aarzoo was over 18 years old and had converted to Islam.

A birth certificate allegedly presented by her parents is said to show that she is 13 years old.

On Monday, the court reversed its position and ordered Aarzoo to be taken into protective custody in a women’s shelter until the matter can be finally investigated.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that Aarzoo had been rescued and taken to a shelter, leading to a mixed number of responses as some commentators praised the government’s actions while others expressed anger that it had not more had been done earlier.

You literally have a job! You are so interested in commenting / tweeting on topics other than human rights like instantly, but topics like these that are so prevalent in our society and fall right under YOUR umbrella … why delay so?

– Noon jhonk (@ frc020) November 2, 2020

According to the UK-based Girls Not Brides coalition, 21 percent of Pakistani girls are married before their 18th birthday. The UN children’s rights organization UNICEF puts the number of child brides in Pakistan at more than 1.9 million, the sixth highest in the world

According to a UNICEF report from 2013, 42 percent of the world’s child brides live in South Asia. Every third child bride worldwide is located in Pakistan’s eastern neighbor, India.

Pakistani law prohibits child marriage and forcible conversion, a growing problem in southern Sindh province, where in recent years several known cases have emerged of Hindu women allegedly forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.

Last month, the head of a Pakistani parliamentary committee tasked with investigating these allegations said that most cases of forced conversion “have some degree of willingness on the part of the girl”.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweeted @AsadHashim.

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