Jan 19, 2024

By Kamran Ali


Peshawar: 

Nadia Karamat had adopted her niece Minahil three years ago as she did not have any children of her own and also because Minahil’s parents – her sister and brother-in-law – had died.

But on January 5, 2024, her world came crashing down when she discovered that the 14 year old had gone missing.

Speaking to Voicepk, Nadia, 35, a resident of Christian Colony said that she had gone out to work as usual but when she returned home in the evening, Minahil was not there.

“I asked everyone in the neighbourhood but no one knew,” she said. “Two days later, I started becoming a little suspicious of my neighbors. Upon questioning them I found out, that she had been taken by a 21-year-old man Adil Yaqoob, a resident of Railway Quarters,” she said.

Adil’s brother told Nadia that Minahil and Adil had gotten married.

“Minahil was forced into marrying Adil. Her father had been an employee of the Railway Department and had left property as inheritance as well as pension,” says Nadia.

Habeas Corpus petition

Lawyer Mehwish Muhib Kakakhel, who works for the rights of women and children, has filed a habeas corpus petition before the Peshawar High Court for Minahil’s recovery.

According to Mehwish, Minahil, a minor, was forced to marry after being kidnapped which is not only illegal but also against the principles of Christianity.

Mehwish stated that for Christians the minimum age for a girl to marry was 21 years, but now a resolution had been passed unanimously with churches across Pakistan on the same page, that no priest could solemnize a nikah for a boy or girl less than 18 years of age.

“If a boy or a girl who elopes and marries, that marriage will not be recognized among the Christian community,” said Mehwish talking about the resolution.

While the accused also belongs from the Christian community, Nadia alleges that one Pastor Khalid Shaukat has solemnized this illegal marriage. The pastor is the maternal uncle of the accused.

Violation of Child Marriage Restraint Act

Mehwish says that the marriage is also a violation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act under which the marriage of children under the age of 16 is illegal.

“keeping this in consideration, this also automatically becomes a rape case as under Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code, sex without consent is rape, and the consent of a girl under the age of 16 is not acceptable,” Mehwish explains.

Importance of the Girl’s Statement

Sajjad Ahmed Mehsud, a lawyer and expert in criminal cases, says that Section 365B of the Pakistan Penal Code regarding forced marriage is very clear, and 365-B applies to such a case as well.

According to Mehsud, an application can be made to the police for registration of a case under 365 B and the police do a preliminary investigation by tracing the girl or the suspicious boy and register a case.

“A complete trial is necessary if there is a forced marriage and the punishment is life imprisonment, if found guilty,” Sajjad Mehsud further elaborated.

Sajjad Mehsud, while talking to Voicepk, said that the case under 365 B is based on the statement of the girl because if the girl records her statement of consent in the court, the case ends.
“If the girl does not agree, the family court must be approached for the dissolution of the marriage along with the prosecution,” Sajjad Mehsud says.

53 forced marriages reported in 2023

According to a document obtained from Peshawar Police, 53 cases of forced marriages have been reported in the year 2023, in which 35 women and 18 minor girls were identified.

According to the police, cases under 365B have been registered in the incidents and challans have been submitted in the courts in 50 cases, but no accused has been punished so far.
“Most of the women and girls affected by forced marriages in 2023 were first kidnapped and then forced into contracting marriage,” the police informed.

Nadia Karamat has demanded that the government and the police recover Minahil, and bring them justice by punishing the accused.

The petition before the PHC also pled that Minahil must be recovered and handed over to her legal guardian.

 

 

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