From: Gopinath Kumar
Date: Sat, May 29, 2010 at 9:14 PM
Subject: PAKISTAN: A young Hindu girl is detained and forcibly converted by a Madrassa; police refuse to act
Name of victim:
Gajri Ram, 15, daughter of Mengha Ram; former resident of Katchi Mandi,
Liaquatpur sub-district, Rahim Yar Khan District, Punjab province
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr Imtiaz Gul, District Police Officer (DPO), Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab province
2. Mr. Mohammad Salim, resident of Katchi Mandi, Liaquatpur sub-district; Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab province.
Mr. Maulana Abdul Hafeez, Imam of the Darul-Uloom Madressa in Khan Pur sub-district,
Rahim Yar Khan district, Punjab province.
Date of incident: 21 December, 2009
Place of incident: Liaquatpur sub-district, Rahim Yar Khan District, Punjab province, Pakistan
I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the complete lack of police action into the abduction of a fifteen-year-old Hindu girl by a neighbour in December last year.
According to the information I have received, on 21 December 2009 Gajri Ram, 15, disappeared from the home of her Hindu parents in Katchi Mandi, Liaquatpur. They were told that she had been abducted by a neighbor, who after going missing for several days, returned home alone.
On 26 December the station head officer (SHO) of the local police station, Saddar Circle Police Station, Liaquatpur sub-district received a letter and an affidavit from a Madrassa that said that Gajri had embraced Islam and had married the neighbour, a Mr. Mohammad Salim. The letter did not enclose a marriage certificate.
The police did not immediately report the information to Gaijri's father, Mengha Ram or her mother , who had tried to file a First Information Report (FIR) after she had gone missing and been discouraged by station staff. The parents were told days later when they returned to the station hoping to be allowed to file the case according to their legal rights. Their attempts to fie the case were again rejected by station staff.
I understand that with the help of the vice president of the National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony in Punjab, Mr. Ramesh Jay Pal; Mr. and Mrs. Ram met Mr. Maulana Abdul Hafeez, the Imam in charge of the Darul-Uloom Madressa in Khan Pur. The Imam reportedly told them that their daughter was there and had embraced Islam so was not allowed to see her parents.
After some time a meeting was arranged between the girl and her parents, in the presence of many Madrassa members, however the girl appeared extremely unhappy and not able to speak freely, and remained captive.
I am told that in January the parents tried to file a case of abduction against their neighbour and the Madrass and were refused help by District Police Officer (DPO) Mr. Imtiaz Gul. He allegedly told them that he had no power to intervene in matters of religion conversion, and that their daughter was now the property of the Madrassa. As yet no marriage certificate has been produced, and Gajri's parents continue to be denied access to their daughter and refused any form of help from the authorities. An FIR has still not been filed.
I am extremely shocked and concerned by the lack of laws for crimes involving forced conversions, but also strongly censure the lack of police action in these cases, in which other laws and fundamental rights are often violated.
The abduction of children by strangers is not condoned by Pakistan law regardless of that person's religion, and neither is the obstruction of the complaint-filing process by police. Under the Pakistan Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1962 a girl must be at least 16 and a boy at least 18 before they marry, and both must consent. Although the affidavit claimed that Gajri was 18, the police are duty-bound to investigate this following the complaint of a parent. It should also be noted that the Contract Act of 1872 invalidates a contract if any of the parties are younger than 18. This has been used in High Court arguments against the forced conversion of minors.
Pakistan is a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has adjusted its legal framework accordingly. As a minor, Gajiri cannot arbitrarily be removed from the custody of her parents. Her presence and alleged captivity at the Madrassa against the wishes of her parents is illegal.
However such violations continue. There are numerous cases documented in which police have ignored or excused themselves from investigating crimes that involve a Madrassa or Muslim cleric. The protection of the national religion does not involve the promotion of its figureheads above the law; this tendency has simply allowed Islam to become a shield behind which human rights violations can take place unaddressed.
Although Pakistan has very few legal protections in place for religious minorities, the country is still bound to a variety of international conventions that bind it to a standard of protection for them, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which protects the freedom to religion in Article 18.
Please intervene swiftly to ensure that Miss Gajri is released and that her security and fundamental rights to freedom of religion and security are guaranteed. I also urge you to make sure that all such cases of abduction and forced conversions – notably through marriages – are responded to swiftly and credibly by the authorities as required by the Pakistan constitution and penal code.
Mr. Mohammad Salim and Mr. Maulana Abdul Hafeez, imam of the Darul-Uloom Madressa, if proven to be guilty, must be brought before the law, as must the police who are proven to have obstructed justice in the case.