ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday permitted the two sisters from Ghotki to live with their husbands declaring that they were not forcibly converted from Hinduism to Islam.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah issued these directions while hearing the petition filed by Reena, Raveena and their spouses, Safdar Ali and Barkat Ali who were seeking protection.

In their petitions, the girls stated that they belonged to a Hindu family of Ghotki, Sindh, but converted wilfully as they were impressed by Islamic teachings.

They had moved the IHC on March 25 against the alleged harassment by police days after their father and brother, in videos circulated on social media, alleged that Reena and Raveena were underage, had been abducted, forced into changing their religion, and then married off to Muslim men.

Later, the IHC Chief Justice had constituted a five-member commission comprising Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, prominent Muslim scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan, National Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz and veteran journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman to probe whether the conversion of the Hindu sisters to Islam was forced or otherwise.

Declares the duo was not forced to convert to Islam

This commission probed the matter and concluded that it was not a forced conversion.

During the hearing, Interior Secretary Azam Suleman informed the court about the findings of the commission saying that as per the commission’s opinion, it was a facilitated conversion.

I.A. Rehman mentioned in the court that there is no law in Pakistan against forced conversions and sought a court decree in this regard.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf lawmaker Ramesh Kumar, when invited to the rostrum, wanted the IHC to issue directives to the government for the amendment of laws related to the protection of minorities.

However, Justice Minallah expressed displeasure, saying that he feels embarrassed when parliamentarians express helplessness to legislate. He remarked that the case of the Ghotki sisters was a simple one and would have been decided in a day or so, but a commission comprising eminent professionals and scholars had been constituted keeping in view the sensitivity of the case since the court wanted to ensure this was not a forced conversion.

The commission’s report mentioned that there was no clue found for forced conversion of both girls but to facilitate them. It also stated that the girls decided to change their religion after being familiar with Islam.

The medical report submitted before the court stated that the girls were not minors at the time of their marriages to the Muslim men. “Both girls are 18 and 19 years old respectively,” stated the medical report.

The interior secretary apprised the IHC bench, “Three out of five members of the probe commission held a session [to review findings of the case]. The commission recorded statements of both girls, whereas, statements of their husbands have also recorded today.”

He added, “These cases are common in Ghotki. We are also willing to present a final report to the court.”

At this juncture, the IHC chief justice said, “Court has observed sensitivity of the case. We want to know more regarding steps taken for the implementation of directives given by the Supreme Court in this regard.”

The commission members I.A. Rehman also said that centre for conversion of religion in Ghotki needs a check and balance [by the higher authorities]. We need proper legislations [from the Parliament] for this genre of cases.”

To this, the IHC CJ said, “This court cannot order the Parliament to initiate regulations.”

Justice Athar added, “All members of the commission are very respectable personalities. It is the matter of legal boundaries for the Islamabad High Court here.”

Citing the reports, the IHC bench accepted protection petitions and declared the conversion of religion by the girls as legal. The high court also approved plea of the commission seeking more time for submission of the final report.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing till May 14 for further proceedings.