A Pakistani man has claimed that a Hindu woman, who authorities said was a minor and abducted by four armed men, has converted to Islam and married him in Sindh province, amidst uproar over a similar case involving two teenage girls from the minority community.
His claim came a day after the provincial Minorities Affairs Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal directed authorities to register an FIR of the abduction and provide protection to the girl's family. The FIR was registered on Tuesday after the girl's father complained that his 14-year-old daughter was abducted from their house by four armed men, three of whom were unidentified, on March 17 from her residence in Badin district.
However, the man came forward with the claim that she is now his wife after converting to Islam, Dawn reported. He sent documents to journalists, claiming that he has married the girl after she converted to Islam at the hands of Pir Jan Agha Khan Sarhandi on March 17 at his seminary in Samaro town, the report said.
The man, who hails from Umerkot district, also rejected her father's claim that she was a minor, saying that the girl was 19 years old, it said. The incident came amidst nationwide outrage over abduction, forced conversion and marriage of two underage Hindi girls in Ghotki district in Sindh. Raveena, 13, and Reena, 15, were allegedly kidnapped by a group of "influential" men from their home on the eve of Holi.
Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls, triggering a nationwide outrage. The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday ordered official protection for the two girls due to concern about their safety as authorities widened a probe to ascertain if the teenage sisters were abducted, forcibly converted and married.
Police arrested the cleric who solemnised the wedding and six others for their alleged involvement in the girls' forceful conversion to Islam. Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. Majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province.
According to media reports, approximately 25 forced marriages take place every month only in Umerkot district in Sindh province.
Commenting on the case, rights activist Mukesh Meghwar alleged that Hindu girls were being kidnapped and forced to convert under a "deep-seated" conspiracy.