A probe has been launched by the Pakistani police into the marriage of a 14-year-old girl from Balochistan with Maulana Salahuddin Ayubi, a leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and a Member of the National Assembly (MNA) of Pakistan. Reportedly, the investigation was initiated after a complaint was filed by an NGO working for the welfare of women in Chitral, Pak Observer reported.
According to local Pakistani media agencies, the girl was a student of Government Girls High School, Jughoor, where her date of birth has been recorded as 28 October 2006, which highlighted that the girl had not attained the age of marriage. Significantly, Maulana Salahudddin Ayubi is in his late 50s.
The Chitral police station SHO Inspector Sajjad Ahmed, however, alleged that the father of the girl denied the girl’s marriage when the police had reached the girl’s home a few days ago on the complaint of the organisation. Ahmed also added that an affidavit saying that the girl was not married was also shown by the girl’s father.
The alleged marriage of the underage girl with the Pakistan MP, who is roughly four times heer age, comes even as the country’s law strictly prohibits marriages of girls below the age of 16 and recommends punishment for parents if they willfully allow the marriage of their underage daughters.
As per Pak Observer, the legislator has so far only solemnised the marriage with the underage girl while a proper marriage ceremony is yet to be held.
The menace of child marriage continues unabated in Pakistan
The menace of child marriage continues unabated in Pakistan. Over the last few years, radical Islamists in the country have abducted, carried out forced conversions and married minority girls, including those who were below the legal age of marriage. The Associated Press quoted Human right activists as saying that the religious persecution of these impoverished non-Muslim girls accelerated during lockdowns against the coronavirus, as they spend more time on social media and fall prey to the traffickers who remain active on the internet.
The report suggests that as many as 1000 Christian, Sikh and Hindu women between 12 and 25 years are abducted, raped, married, and forced to convert to Islam every year. Due to the limited financial means of the families of such victims, many cases go unreported.
According to UNICEF, 21 per cent of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18, and three per cent before the age of 15. As per a survey, while child marriage is practised in some parts of Pakistan, its prevalence is highest in the Sindh province.
Although laws and statutes exist to criminalise child marriage, on occasions even the Pakistani judicial establishment has advocated the reprehensible practice. In February last year, a Pakistani court ruled that men can marry underage girls as long as they have had their first menstrual cycle.
The ruling was in the case of 14-year-old Huma Younus, a Catholic girl, who was abducted, forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim adult in October 2019. Her parents went to the police and the court seeking justice in the matter.