How Pakistan Has Failed to Protect Its Minorities: Court Gives Custody of 13-Yr-Old Arzoo Raja to Her Kidnapper


How Pakistan Has Failed to Protect Its Minorities: Court Gives Custody of 13-Yr-Old Arzoo Raja to Her Kidnapper

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

If you’re following international news these days, odds are the topics will either have something to do with the fallout of the terror attacks in France or the upcoming US election. And with the election almost concluded, it looks like the terror attacks, the French government’s response to them, and the reactions of Islamic countries’ leaders will reclaim the spotlight. The latest turn saw Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan denounce French President Emmanuel Macron, and write a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg condemning the spread of Islamophobia. But Khan’s timing has been inopportune, as news of minorities being treated unfairly in his own country has cut the legs out from under his argument.

A case developing in the Pakistani province of Sindh has attracted international attention on social media. It involves a 13-year-old Catholic girl, Arzoo Raja, who was allegedly abducted by a 44-year-old man for marriage and converted to Islam. The Sindh High Court’s decision to award custody of Raja to her abductor, on the grounds that Raja allegedly agreed to the union, has invited a storm of criticism, given that Raja is still a minor and therefore unqualified to give consent.

While Imran Khan might wish to present an aggrieved face to the international community as he attempts to speak up for Muslims worldwide, the atrocities against minorities in his own country lend his arguments an air of hypocrisy.

Voices within Pakistan have also condemned the incident, which is not only a case of dubious conversion and possible abduction, but also a clear-cut case of child marriage.

Imran Khan’s attempt to protect the image of Islam may spring from noble intentions, but unless he can get his own government to protect the rights of other minorities living in the Muslim-majority nation, it remains a fool’s errand.

With international attention now focussed on the Arzoo Raja case, it is the Pakistan government’s turn to prove they can respect the rights of minorities while their leader lectures France on the same topic.