August 6, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: A local court has granted bail to a Hindu man and a Muslim woman arrested in an alleged case of cohabitation in Mirpurkhas district after the woman retracted her earlier statement to police that she was married to him. According to the law, cohabition without legal marriage is a crime.
The case has raised communal tension in Mirpurkhas when reports first emerged of a Hindu-Muslim couple living together in a house for several years. Even after the case was lodged, local lawyers distanced themselves from representing the Muslim woman in court which had to appoint a state counsel for her. Local clerics have caused things to take a turn for the worse, calling for trying the couple under the offences of blasphemy for hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community.
On August 5, the Muslim woman, N, told a magistrate that she worked as a cook for her Hindu employer Dr A.K who she said had housed her in a rented apartment. After recording her statement to the magistrate under Section 164, the court allowed N to go with her family. Meanwhile A.K was released on bail on surety bonds of Rs 50,000. A day earlier, the court had remanded him to police custody while shifting N to a safe house in the city.
Police had arrested both of them after a prayer leader of a nearby mosque lodged a complaint with Town Police Station that the Hindu man was forcibly keeping the Muslim woman in a rented apartment in Zubaida Heights, located on Mirpurkhas-Hyderabad road. Police raided the apartment and detained N and three others Dinesh, Bharat and Haresh, who were living there. A.K was arrested from the Hameedpura locality of the city.
In her earlier video statement to police, N had stated that she was A’s wife and had been living with him for five years. The 29-year-old woman said A had promised her that he would embrace Islam soon. The woman said she was a resident of Thokar Niaz Beg area of Lahore.
She also told the police, that A.K had also kept her at a rented accommodation in Karachi prior to moving to Mirpurkhas.
Following her statement to the police, a first information report (FIR) was filed against A.K for the offence of cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage under Section 493-A under the Pakistan Penal Code. The offence is punishable with a maximum punishment of 25 years along with a fine.
Speaking to Voicepk, Hammad Hameed, prayer leader of a nearby mosque, said that he did not personally know N or A.K.
“I only lodged the complaint when people told me that a Muslim woman was living alone with a Hindu man in the neighbourhood which is not allowed in our religion or the law of the land,” he said.
According to Ataullah Haideri, the counsel for the complainant, they had demanded the inclusion of offences relating to rape and blasphemy in the FIR against the couple for marrying illegally and for violating the injunctions of Islam.
“The police however filed the FIR only under Section 493A,” he told Voicepk. “Police also did not go for medical examination and DNA tests of both individuals which could have determined if they were cohabiting,” he added.
The leaders of the local Hindu community were not speaking to the media in view of the sensitivity of the case. The Muslim woman has also not made any statement since she was released by the court.