01/17/2020, 19.26
PAKISTAN
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A chorus of voices call for the liberation of Huma Younus, abducted three months ago

by Shafique Khokhar

Many Pakistanis, both Christians and Muslims, back the appeal by the family of the 14-year-old girl. The latter was forcibly converted and married to her captor. In Pakistan, only Sindh province has banned underage marriages. A Catholic activist urges Muslim clerical authorities to protect minorities.

Karachi (AsiaNews) – Increasingly, Pakistanis are calling for the deliverance of Huma Younus, the 14-year-old Christian girl abducted last October, taken 600 kilometres from her home, forcibly converted to Islam and married to her captor.

Many Christian as well as Muslim rights activists have backed an appeal launched two days by a lawyer representing the girl to see that her suffering ends and that she is returned to her family.

Yuma's lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf, filed a petition yesterday with the Karachi High Court. She hopes to show that the marriage was contracted against the 14-year-old's will and should not have been performed.

According to Huma’s family, those involved in the kidnapping should be punished, pointing out that he people who defend the kidnapper used a phoney birth certificate showing that Huma was 18.

As a woman, Mehnaz Rehman, from the Ourat Foundation, “can feel for Huma’s mother,” and is sure that “within civil society many have already raised the issue of child marriage.”

She notes appreciatively that “Sindh is the only province to pass a law against child marriage.” What is more, “since no one can legally work or marry before the age of 18, this should be decreed across the country,” and also applying to changing religion.

Zahid Farooq is a human rights activist. “People,” he believes, “generally dream to see their children get a stable profession. Huma was in Grade 8 at the St Simon Gulshan High School in Korangi, Karachi.”

He wonders “why only non-Muslim are girls forced to become Muslim and marry Muslim men, why they are not accepted as sisters and wives.”

In his view, “If Muslim girls were involved, the cleric and witnesses to the marriage would have been arrested and punished. Hence, although “the issue is a delicate one, the government should take action.”

More importantly, “Minorities should have the same rights as Muslims, like in other countries.” Pakistan does “have laws in favour of minorities but they are not enforced.”

Dr Jaipal Chhabria, an ophthalmologist, cites Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who said that minorities should be treated as equal citizens, but the opposite is the case now.

Lawmakers “don't speak out in favour of minorities because they just want to keep their seats. No one is interested in defending them because they were not elected with their votes, but picked by political parties.” And “Many Hindu girls go through the same experience, and are forcibly converted.”

Kashif Anthony is the national coordinator for Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.

“The prophet Muhammad,” he explained, “signed a famous letter to protect Christians and place the monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai in their trust.”

Hence, “It is very important that Muslims follow the teachings of the Prophet who told his Umma (community) to protect religious sites, minority women and not to convert and marry their girls.”

For him, “Not only the government, the courts and the security forces but also senior Islamic authorities Islam must defend minorities and their youth.”

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