We want to live with our husbands

Islamabad: Three Hindu women, who were allegedly forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslims, today said they wanted to live with their husbands after Pakistan`s Supreme Court gave them the right to decide their future. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry asked Rinkle Kumari alias Faryal Bibi, Lata Kumari alias Hafsa Bibi and Asha Kumari alias Haleema Bibi to inform the registrar`s office whether they want to live with their husbands or their families.

The bench ordered police to provide complete security to the women and warned that police officials would be held responsible for negligence if they were harmed. The court said the women were old enough to make right decisions for themselves. The women were taken to the registrar`s office, where they said they wished to live with their husbands. The Supreme Court further directed authorities to submit a report in two weeks on the implementation of its orders in the case.

The parents of the three women expressed disappointment at the judgment, saying they had been denied justice. Footage on television showed the burqa-clad women being escorted to the apex court by a contingent of police personnel. The three women have been at the centre of a controversy over the alleged abduction and forcible conversion of Hindu girls and women in southern Sindh province.

In the case of 19-year-old Rinkle Kumari, rights groups and civil society activists have alleged that she was abducted by persons linked to ruling PPP parliamentarian Mian Abdul Haq alias Mian Mithoo. Mitho and his brother have been accused of kidnapping and converting several Hindu women in Ghotki area of Sindh. Rights activists have alleged that these women were forcibly married to Muslim men. Matters were further compounded when Rinkle made different statements during news conferences and her appearances in court.

The apex court had earlier sent Rinkle and Lata Kumari to a women`s shelter in Karachi to give them time to decide about their future free from pressure. The court gave its ruling today in response to a constitutional petition filed by the Pakistan Hindu Council. Ramesh Kumar, patron-in-chief of the Council, had approached the court to direct authorities to recover the three Hindu women. Rinkle`s family has said that she was abducted and forced to convert and marry a Muslim man. A similar claim was made by Lata`s family.