The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday ordered the formation of a panel to investigate the alleged forced conversion of two Hindu sisters to Islam, Dawn reported. The committee has also been asked to ascertain if they were underage at the time of their marriages to two Muslim men. The court was hearing a petition filed by the sisters and their husbands who have sought protection from government action.

The petition claimed that the girls converted to Islam of their own accord and that they had willingly left their homes to marry the men. Their plea claimed that they were “impressed by Islamic teachings” and that they did not share the development with their family because they feared a threat to their lives.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah also ordered the constitution of a medical board to determine the age of the girls.

A report by the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences had claimed that the two girls were not minors when they married their husbands. The girls’ family, however, contested the findings of the report. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Member of National Assembly, Darshan Punchi, demanded an independent investigation into their ages. Punchi is a member of the Hindu minority community in Pakistan.

Minallah refused to comment on the findings of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and asked the medical board to submit a report at the next hearing scheduled for April 11.

On Monday, the father of the sisters had moved the High Court to form a medical board to determine their age. He also asked the court to direct the government to conduct “a psychological test … to ascertain their mental capability/state of mind and for diagnosis of Stockholm syndrome”. The condition has been described as one where a victim develops “feeling of trust or affection towards a captor”.

The High Court criticised the federal and provincial governments for their “lethargic attitude” after neither the interior secretary nor the chief secretary of the Sindh government appeared in court despite a notice. The court, on March 26, had ordered the state to take over custody of the girls until it takes a decision on the matter.

The case

On March 24, Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered an investigation into the matter after two videos about the case surfaced on social media. In one video, the father and brother of the girls claimed that they were abducted and forced into converting to Islam. In the other video, the girls claimed they had converted of their own free will.

India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on March 24 asked the Indian envoy in Pakistan for a report on the alleged abduction of the two girls.

The Nikah Khwan, who officiated the weddings, and relatives of the men who married the girls were among those arrested and handed over to the Sindh police.