ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's top court has ruled that three Hindu girls who have reverted to Islam can remain with their husbands, putting an end to a controversial case that strained relations between Muslims and Hindus in the South Asian Muslim country.
All the three girls are wise enough to decide for themselves, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry said.
They are adults and educated. Therefore, let them decide whether they want to go with their in-laws or their parents.
The court directed the three girls to appear before of the court's register without their lawyers and husbands to inform him about which faith they want to embrace.
Asha Kumari, 19, one of three newly Muslim reverts, strode to the rostrum and told the court that she has embraced Islam at her will and that she wants to go with her husband.
But the court insisted that she records her statement before the registrar.
The three later told the registrar Supreme Court that they want to remain Muslims and live with their husbands.
Hearing their consent, the register handed the three girls over to their husbands and directed the police to provide them full security.
The court also asked the government to prepare legislation vis-a-vis change of religion to avoid future conflict.
The three girls, who belong to upper-caste Hindus, embraced Islam last month at the hand of local spiritual leader and MP Mian Abdul Haq in Mirpur Mathelo, 500km northeast of Karachi.
The case has strained relations between the two Muslim and Hindu communities in Pakistan, with upper-class Hindus taking to the streets to protest the reversion of the girls.
Dozens of family members of the three girls, who were present outside the apex court, protested against the court ruling, calling for returning the girls to their families.
The mother of Faryal Shah, one of the three girls, broke into tears and started crying loudly protesting against the court ruling.
She earlier had pleaded before the court that her daughter had been kidnapped and forced to convert.
However, her daughter insisted before the register that she embraced Islam at her free will.
Following the verdict, security forces were put on high alert in five districts of southern Sindh province.
Around 1000 policemen and 400 para-military rangers have been deputed in Ghotki, Sukkur, Jaccobabad, Shikarpur, and Kashmor districts, where authorities fear Hindu-Muslim clashes after the judgment.
Hindus have vowed to appeal against the court ruling to allow the girls' reversion to Islam.
We will file an appeal against the judgment, and will also approach the international human rights commission, Munawwar Laal, a Hindu parliamentarian, told the protestors.
Today, the soul of Quaid-I-Azam (Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan) must be disturbed, he said, arguing that the decision tarnished Pakistan's image.
Mian Abdul Haq alias Mian Mithtoo, who has been blamed by the upper-class Hindus for the girls' reversion to Islam, defended the court ruling.
I had continuously been saying that there is no concept of forced conversion in Islam, he told OnIslam.net.
This is totally Haram. But the so-called liberals and a section of Hindu community were not ready to listen to any sane argument.
Hindus make up 2 percent of Pakistan's 180 million population, the second largest minority in the south Asian Muslim nation after Christians, who account for 3 percent.
Hindus have divided themselves into two major castes; the upper caste, which comprises the white-skinned and rich Hindus and lower-caste, which consists of poor and black-skinned Hindus.
Low-caste Hindus make up 82 percent of the total 5 million Hindus in Pakistan, of which a majority dwells in Sindh province.
Cousin-marriage is highly discouraged among Hindus, which has caused shortage of proposals for girls.
It is seen as one of the major causes behind conversion of educated girls who want to marry but have no proposals.
Dowry is another reason that prompts Hindu girls to convert.
Dowry is an indispensible part of a wedding in upper-class Hindus, which amounts between Rs 300,000,0 (32000 dollars) to Rs 400,000,0 (42,000 dollars).
If parents don't have the power to give dowry, their girls will remain sit at home, but never get married.I am thankful to Allah that the apex court's judgment has established my innocence, Abdul Haq said.