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IHC declares Muslim marriage null and void of minor Christian girl enforcedly married by Muslim

Islamabad: February 19, 2018. (PCP) Last week a landmark decision in a Islamabad High Court hearing resulted in the emancipation of 12 year old Christian girl from her Muslim rapist despite her captor having an 'official' Islamic marriage certificate.

Elisha (12 yrs) was kidnapped from the village of Pindorian, Islamabad in November last year. After a few days a stranger brought papers to her father Iqbal Masih confirming that she has been married to a Muslim man named Qadeer Ismael and was now legally bound to him. However Iqbal Masih then took the papers to the local police station and demanded that his daughters rapist and kidnapper be arrested and Elisha returned to him.

In a bizarre twist of events Iqbal Masih was then arrested after the Muslim abductors laid counter charges against him advising him to drop all charges or face dire consequences. After being detained for a day the police let the father go as they could not find any strong evidence of a felony. The father then began a legal suit to win back his daughter and filed a petition at Islamabad High Court, and a hearing was held on Thursday 15th Februray.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui accepted the petition registered by Iqbal Masih (40 yrs) that his daughter Elisha had been forcibly abducted and raped before being illegally married under duress to a Muslim man named Qadeer Ismael who producing a marriage certificate which purported his age as 20 yrs and indicated that Elisha was 18 yrs.

However, at court Iqbal Masih submitted Elisha's National Identity Card (NIC) which illustrated that she was born on 15th December 2005. The details of the card were matched with records held by the National Databases and Registration Authority (NADRA) which confirmed that Elisha was below 13 years of age. Justice Siddiqqui then stipulated that as the child was under 14 years of age, she was below the legal consent for a marriage.

The evidence against the rapist became overwhelming when a terrified Elisha was brought to a witness stand during which she could be seen visibly weeping while she said that she had embraced Islam for the purposes of marriage and claimed an Islamic name as her new name. However, during a cross examination the girl could not name any prophet but Isa (Islamic name for Jesus) and confirmed that she was illiterate. Her lack of knowledge of the Islamic faith and failure to name even one Islamic prophet barring Jesus who she said was her prophet failed to convince the court that she was a true convert

Under such compelling evidence Justice Siddiqui ordered police to investigate with great rigour the allegations made by Iqbal Masih. He wrote in his court order, "I am not convinced that the girl embraced Islam of her free will and in a secure environment; rather it appears to be the result of inducement and compulsion".

"I am constrained to observe that this sort of act of abduction under the guise of Islam is totally uncalled for and unacceptable,"the judge wrote, adding that Muslims, Christians and all other citizens are equal when it comes to constitutional guarantees.

When the judge ruled that the girl return back home to her parents she rather unsurprisingly acceded to the wishes of the court without fuss and was visibly said to be overjoyed.

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said: "This surprising precedent set in Lahore High Court could be a watershed moment for Pakistan, a people who have been tormented in recent weeks by revelations of the extent of child abduction and rapes across their nation.

"Since 2014 it has been estimated that 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic Marriage every year after a report was published by Muslim NGO 'Movement of Solidarity and Peace' (MSP).

"Even then little has been done to resolve this social malaise that most Christian NGO's believe is on a much larger scale than the meagre assessment by MSP.

"In almost every other case Christian girls have been forced to stay with their Muslim rapists due to the higher value of a Muslim husband's authority compared with the authority of Christian parents over the life of the child in Pakistan. Moreover the minimum age of 14 for marital consent has up till now been summarily ignored.

"This amazing result must have been triggered by the deep soul searching triggered by the kidnap, abduction, rape and murder of young Zainab Ansari (RIP)(click here). Video footage of her abduction and images of her body dumped on a rubbish pile still haunts the nation.

"This poor child has been traumatised and will need serious counselling she must receive professional help so that she is strong enough to testify against her abductors - justice must be served.

"The bravery of her parents has brought her to a place of safety and I am sure they are willing to take on whatever comes their way in order to make their daughter safe. I cannot imagine the level of threats and intimidation they have had to overcome but I know that right now all that means nothing. For now they will be grateful to God and will be relishing the company of their tender child.

"No doubt as public knowledge of this sordid story filters out and more detail is revealed, we will all be more shocked and disturbed by the actions of the perpetrators. But that is still to come.

"For now the family will have a short reprieve and will soon have to be back in court to fight this case. Sadly in Pakistan justice is often a pipe-dream and even now the culprits are plotting their escape and will use threats, bribes and every corruption they can find to falsely exonerate themselves. They will also have many Muslim supporters who believe the rape and conversion of a Christian child in this manner is warranted in Islam.