Ensure constitutional right of religious freedom, rights body chief tells govt
ISLAMABAD: Expressing deep reservations over the marital and legal rights of newly converted Kalash women, Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chohan – Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) – has urged government to ensure constitutional rights of religious freedom granted to every citizen.
He was speaking at a news conference on Wednesday after concluding his four-day stay in Chitral during which he also visited upper Chitral.
He stated that Kalash society was a remarkable model of interfaith tolerance where practitioners of Kalashi religion and Muslims were living in peace and harmony.
“To protect and promote this tranquility, the government must protect the constitutional rights of religious freedom granted to every citizen,” he noted.
He raised his concerns over reports of growing number of divorces among Kalashi women soon after their conversion and marriages to Muslim men.
Justice (retd) Chohan further noted that these marriages were solemnized and annulled without financial arrangements for their sustenance as enshrined in law.
“Protecting the legal and marital rights of newly converted Kalashi girls is the fundamental constitutional responsibility of the state,” he added while terming the practice as a grave violation of the rights of Kalashi women.
He asserted that the nikah (marriage) of the converted Kalashi girls must be solemnised only by the government’s approved nikah registrars. “These registrars should ensure that all the legal rights of the bride, particularly determining the age, presence of the ‘wali’ (legal guardian), proper Haq Mehar (alimony) and the right of divorcing the husband are secured in the nikah form,” he remarked.
Praising the tolerance and broad mindedness of Kalashi elders, the NCHR chief said that the elders have allowed their women to change religion and get married according to their own wishes. Adding: “It reflects the centuries old Kalashi custom of gender parity and social equality.”