10 May 2021
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Azhar Ali, the man who has been accused of marrying 13-year-old Arzoo Fatima in Karachi, has challenged Sindh’s child marriage law. He claimed that the minimum age of marriage in the province–18 years—is not Shariah compliant.

A Sindh High Court bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, remarked that the petitioner should take the case to the Shariat court. “What does 18th Amendment have to do with child marriages? How is the child marriage law against Islam?”

The petitioner’s lawyer argued that the age limit set by Sindh is different from that in other provinces.

The court then summoned arguments on the jurisdiction of the petition and adjourned it indefinitely.

On November 23, 2020, the high court ruled that Arzoo Raja will remain in a shelter home until she turns 18 and closed the child marriage and forced conversion case for the Karachi teenager.

At the last hearing on November 9, 2020 the court ruled that this was a child marriage after it was proven that Raja is 14 years old. The province’s law bars anyone under the age of 18 from marrying anyone.

The court had sent her to a shelter home for two weeks and barred Ali from meeting her. It ruled that every person who was a part of the nikkah ceremony would be investigated under the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013.

Arzoo Raja case

On October 13, Raja Masih, the teenager’s father, filed an FIR after she was kidnapped from her house in Railway Colony. The police found that she had been married to Syed Ali Azhar. For his part, Azhar presented a nikkahnama, free-will affidavit, and a Sanad-e-Islam certificate.

Her parents then approached a judicial magistrate seeking her protective custody. They argued that consummation of child marriage is tantamount to statutory rape and is outlawed under Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 5 of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006.

The nikkahnama doesn’t have any particulars of her age or CNIC copy. It doesn’t have the medical certificate needed to prove a person is 18 in case there is no CNIC either.

Arzoo’s parents say she was forced to file a petition in the Sindh High Court on October 27 in which she claimed that she married Ali of her own free will and converted to Islam. On November 2, she was recovered on the orders of the Sindh High Court and shifted to a shelter home. Her husband was arrested and remanded into police custody.

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Abdul Gh Lone

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