Christian child bride Arzoo 13 age Freed on Conditions
December 2021 Pakistan. Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Christian girl, was abducted, raped, forcibly married and converted to Islam. She was sent to a shelter house until a court decision as to whether she should go with her abductor Ali Azhar, or with her parents. After many postponed court hearings to determine her future, she was to finally appear before the Sindh High Court in Karachi, on December 21, 2021. Still again, the shelter house did not bring her to appear in court.
Nadeem Bhatti accompanied Arzoo’s parents, Raja & Rita. They waited for several hours on the court premises in vain, for Arzoo to be presented. In the afternoon they paid a visit to the shelter house, where they had very positive conversation with Arzoo, at which time she stated that she was willing to go and live with her parents. The court ordered the shelter house to present Arzoo the next day, Dec 22. Once again, Nadeem Bhatti was there early around 8.30 am before the hearings began. Arzoo’s case was presented around 10.30 am. Ali Azhar’s lawyer argued that in Islam, marriage can take place at any age; but the law states that the departure of a bride should only be effective at the age of puberty.
Arzoo stated her desire to live with parents and celebrate Christmas 2021 but also stated that she will remain as a Muslim. The court ordered that she could live with parents, but on certain conditions: that her parents will allow to say her Muslim prayers five times a day and that she will be presented to the local police station every three months. The parents and CAPC focused on bringing Arzoo back to the family despite these conditions. It took another three hours before Arzoo could legally be collected by her parents from the shelter house after presenting the court orders. They were all very delighted to welcome Arzoo back home! The family celebrated her return that evening, and CAPC moved her to a safe place the next day.
The pressure on Arzoo & family accepting the court decision with conditions is not surprising, in the wake of recent rejection of ‘Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Act 2020’ against religiously motivated violence by the policymakers. In addition, it is not easy for the family to continue uncertain lengthy hearings with limited resources. Ali Azhars’s lawyer Tanoli was very aggressive against the verdict and vowed he will not allow her to live separate from her husband. Tanoli’s speech was inciteful, and the crowd was gathered to express opposition to the verdict. It was intimidating, and Arzoo’s supporters escaped the scene very quickly. Arzoo was protected by female police and escorted to the shelter house transportation. The CAPC legal team expressed great concern over the verdict of the Sindh High Court and will challenge this verdict in the Higher Court of Pakistan. According to the law she should remain in her primary faith until she turns 18. After that she will have a legal right to choose and practice her preferred faith. The first two days of release, she was very regular in her Muslim prayers, but she did initiate a small conversation to discuss the life of Jesus Christ. According to the law the underage child is prohibited from the following:
1. Not Eligible to apply for a driving license – under penal code 4 Motor Ordinance 1965
2. Not Eligible to apply for National Identity card – article 9/10 National Data Base & Registration Authority Ordinance NADRA 2000
3. Not Eligible to be kept with common prisoners if arrested – Under Juvenile Justice System 2000 Between 7 to 12 years old the Crime is not guilty – Penal Code of Pakistan Act 82/83
4. Not eligible to Vote – Article (2) 51 Constitution of Pakistan 1973
5. Not eligible to marry according to 1929 Act, Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act 2015, Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013
6. Not Eligible to buy or sell property – under Section 11, Contract Act 1872
7. Not eligible to contest election – according to article i) B & ii) C 62 Constitution of Pakistan 1973, Child Rights Act – under 16 girls cannot get married – Prohibition
There are certain cautions according to Nadeem’s conversion with Arzoo regarding her Christian faith. She does not have the background of a strong Christian faith. She was asked to practice prayers five times per day in the Shelter House and she did, as she was told that only Muslims can enter heaven.
CAPC requests prayers for the safety of Arzoo’s soul