Refusing to review evidence from a Christian couple trying to recover their 12-year-old daughter after she was allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert and marry, a judge in Pakistan last week denied them custody, Morning Star News reported.
Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan of the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench on Aug. 18 denied the petition by Parvez Masih and his wife, Yasmeen, seeking custody of their daughter Zarvia, said rights activist Sherkan Malik.
“The judge dismissed our petition in under two minutes — he even refused to look at any of the evidence, which clearly showed that the minor child was threatened to give a statement in favor of the accused, Imran Shahzad and his wife Adiba,” Malik told Morning Star News.
Dismissed as ‘frivolous case’
The judge declared, “The girl is 12, she is married, and she did it out of her free will,” made the ruling in spite of recorded evidence that Shahzad had threatened to kill Zarvia’s two brothers if she told the truth, Malik said. The ruling leaves Zarvia in the custody of Shahzad and his wife.
Malik, a Muslim, said Masih and his wife, who live in Rawalpindi, approached him for legal assistance over fears that their daughter had been killed after being kidnapped.
“Since May 14, when a judicial magistrate in Rawalpindi handed Zarvia’s custody to Imran on the basis of the child’s verbal statement that she was 14 years old and had married the accused of her own free will, her parents have had no contact with her, leaving them to question if she is even alive,” Malik said. “The judge told us that since the girl had already recorded her statement, this was now just a frivolous case, and there was nothing more the court could do in this regard.”
At least 1,000 women from religious minorities, including Christians and Hindus, are forcibly converted and married annually in Pakistan, according to various rights groups. Although Pakistan officials have dismissed such reports as “rubbish and baseless,” activists assert actual numbers could be much higher as many cases go unreported.
Pakistan ranked eighth on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.