ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday directed the Inspector General Police, Islamabad to provide protection to a 21-year-old girl, Maria, resident of Sukkur, Sindh province, who converted to Islam and got married of her choice. The court directed that her husband Bilawal Ali Bhutto also be provided protection. During the course of the hearing, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui noted that all Pakistani citizens, irrespective of their religion and cast are equal in the eyes of law. Mr Lal, uncle of girl, requested the court to order the meeting of the girl with her family. The court then directed that meeting of Maria with her parents be arranged in the court on next hearing. Maria told the court that she converted to Islam by her own will and choice. She said no one pressurize her to change her religion. She said earlier she had Hindu faith and her name was Anoshi. On the court’s insistence, Maria recited the ‘Kalima’. Counsel for girl’s family contended before the court that the family of Maria’s husband Bilawal Bhutto had a criminal record and a case of theft and kidnapping was registered against the family in Sukkur. Maria’s uncle requested the court to provide him justice, as he was also a Pakistani citizen. He said the girl be kept in Dar-ul-amaan (Safe Home). The petitioner Maria, whose Hindu name was Anooshi, and her husband Bilawal Ali Bhutto son of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, approached the IHC seeking protection because of the threats to their lives for exercising their free will. The counsel for petitioners, Zulfiqar Ali Korai, requested the court to direct the Ministry of Interior and the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad, to protect the lives and liberty of petitioners who get married with their free will after Maria embraced Islam for this cause. The counsel submitted that life of the couple was threatened because of the old practice of Karo-Kari in Sindh. Life of both the petitioners is under serious threat and danger. He said the respondents can go to any extent in order to execute the “black tradition” and it will promote “unconstitutional, illegal, immoral and un-Islamic practice of Karo-Kari.” He requested the court to direct the police to provide protection to the free willed couple as they intend to stay in Islamabad. “Otherwise they would not be found alive,” he said. “When will the black tradition of ‘Karo Kari’ end”, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui noted. “The girl might not be killed on the pretext that she embraced Islam and got married of her choice”, Justice Siddiqui feared. After hearing arguments, the court ordered police protection for the couple, besides directing the Islamabad police chief to produce them before the court on August 25 under police escort. In her petition, she made the Ministry of Interior, Inspector General of Police, Islamabad, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Sukkurr, Senior Superintendent of Police, Sukkur, Deputy Superintendent of Police Rohri, SHO Rohri, Santosh Kumar, Milki Mal, Anand Mal, and the Home Secretary of government of Sindh as respondents. Published in Daily Times, August 19th 2017.