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Cleric granted bail in underage marriage case

Cleric granted bail in underage marriage case

KARACHI: A local court granted on Thursday interim bail to the cleric who solemnized the wedding of Arzoo Masih, an underage Christian girl who was allegedly abducted and forced to convert before being married to a man over 40 years of age.

Meanwhile, Arzoo’s purported husband Ali Azhar was sent to jail on judicial remand during the hearing, held before the South additional district and sessions judge at the Karachi City Court.

The court directed the cleric, Qazi Abdul Rasool, to deposit a surety bond of Rs50,000 and cooperate with the police in the investigation.

During the hearing, Azhar was also produced before the court upon the completion of his remand. The investigation officer (IO) informed the court that the police had completed investigation of the accused and his further remand was no longer required.

According to the police, Arzoo’s counsel Mehmood had presented his client’s free-will certificate to the cleric, who said in his statement that the certificate had the stamp of Justice of Peace Muhammad Azharuddin. Qazi Rasool added that the marriage was solemnised in the presence of Arzoo and Azhar’s witnesses.

The police claimed they were carrying out raids to track down Mehmood, adding that two witnesses to the wedding were also absconders.

The court sent Azhar to jail on judicial remand and directed the IO to submit the charge-sheet after completing the investigation.

On Monday, a medical board constituted on the directives of the Sindh High Court (SHC) determined Arzoo’s age to be around 14 to 15 years.

The high court bench had observed that Arzoo could not consent to legally marry Azhar as the medical board and National Database and Registration Authority records, according to which she is 13 years old, both deemed her underage.

The SHC had directed the IO to proceed with the investigation under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013, which criminalises marrying or aiding the marriage of a child under the age of 18 years. It also sent her back to a shelter home, adding that she would not be permitted to meet Azhar.

Doctor’s ‘suicide’

Separately, the South judicial magistrate summoned three key witnesses to record their statements in the case pertaining to the alleged suicide of a female doctor in August.

The IO submitted a plea seeking permission to record the statements of the deceased’s siblings and Munza Ali.

According to the IO’s application, CCTV footage from a private hospital and an audio recording of the deceased have been included in the probe, while three drug suppliers, namely Bilal, Yaseen and Saad, have been arrested. Two other accused, Junaid and Waqas, are out on interim bail.

The deceased had allegedly shot herself at her residence on August 18. Her father later claimed that she had been drugged and raped prior to her death.

Newspaper: The Express Tribune

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