Lahore Excessive Court docket rejects Christian couple’s custody of 12-yr-old kidnapped daughter
updated: Sep 03, 2022 22:48 IS
Islamabad [Pakistan]September 3 (ANI): Pakistan’s Lahore High Court has dismissed a petition filed by a Christian couple seeking the recovery of their 12-year-old daughter after she was allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert and marry, media reports said citing sources.
According to Pakistan’s local media portal Kross Konnection citing rights activist Sherkan Malik, Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan of the court’s Rawalpindi Bench on August 18, refused to review the evidence provided by Parvez Masih and his wife, Yasmeen, seeking custody of their daughter Zarvia.
While speaking with the media portal, Malik said, “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.”
Even in the presence of recorded evidence, the judge, in a ruling declared that “the girl is 12, she is married, and she did it out of her free will.” The activist said that the accused Shahzad had threatened to kill the girl Zarvia’s two brothers if she told the truth.
With the ruling, the girl Zarvia now remains in the custody of Imran Shahzad. Malik said that the father of the girl 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.”
Malik said that in July, Zarvia managed to make a phone call to her brother, telling him that Shahzad, 40, had threatened to kill him and her other brother if she incriminated him in the abduction case. “The family has an audio recording of Zarvia’s phone call to her eldest brother,” Malik said.
Based on this information, Masih filed a petition for the recovery of his daughter in the Rawalpindi additional sessions court on July 13, but the judge dismissed the case on July 14.
Masih said his family had earlier given refuge to Shahzad, his wife Adiba, and their three children in their house because Shahzad was jobless and did not have a home. He said that Shahzad physically abused Adiba and his children due to which he asked the family to leave their house after some weeks.
On April 30, a week after they vacated their house, Adiba Shahzad came to their home and lured Zarvia into going with her to the market without informing her family, Masih said.
When their daughter did not return home at dusk, Masih and his wife started searching for her and contacted relatives of the Muslim couple. Masih said he received a WhatsApp voice message from Shahzad that night telling him that Zarvia was in his custody, and that they should not contact his relatives again.
The family then registered a kidnapping case against the couple with the Sadiqabad Police Station in Rawalpindi on May 1. The police recovered Zarvia from a brick kiln in Faisalabad after 13 days and also arrested three persons, including the couple and an accomplice identified only as Liaquat , Malik said.
“Despite being a minor, Zarvia was not sent to a children’s shelter home for the night but was instead kept in the women’s police station in Rawalpindi in the same cell as Adiba,” Malik said.
Zarvia recorded her statement before a judicial magistrate on May 14, claiming that she was 14 years old and did not want to undergo a medical examination, he said.
“She also said that she had contracted marriage with Imran Shahzad with her free will,” Malik said, adding that on the basis of her statement, the magistrate dismissed the kidnapping case and ordered the release of all three suspects.
The magistrate roundly rejected the girl’s birth certificate and other documents proving she was under the age to legally marry.
“The magistrate completely ignored her birth certificate, church registration documents and school certifications which confirmed her age as 12,” he said, adding that her coerced statement that she was 14 was immaterial because the legal age to marry under the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act is 16.
Malik said their legal team was now considering other options to recover the child, stressing that ensuring her wellbeing and safety was their top priority. (ANI)