A minor 10 yr old Christian girl abducted and converted in Pakistan

The Christian family of a 10-year-old girl in Pakistan, who was subjected to abduction and enforced conversion to Islam last month, is plagued with apprehension that she may become a victim of human trafficking, according to sources. Laiba Suhail was kidnapped from her residence in Chak 233-RB Ikhlaq Town, Faisalabad District, Punjab Province, on February 12th by four individuals at the instruction of a Muslim known as Shaukat Shah, as reported by her father, Suhail Masih. Despite the serious nature of the incident, authorities have declined to initiate legal proceedings.

Shaukat Shah is reputed in the locality for his involvement in the forcible conversion of minors to Islam through intimidation, compelling them to assert in court that their conversion was voluntary, and subsequently removing them from shelter facilities under the guise of providing religious instruction, Masih elaborated.

Following her disappearance, Laiba Suhail was placed in a women’s shelter by a court decision, at her own request, after the police notified Masih on February 15th that she had submitted an application declaring her conversion to Islam. Masih has since discovered that Shah has assumed guardianship of his daughter from the shelter.

“This is Shah’s established pattern of behavior,” Masih said. “The fate of his victims post-transfer remains unknown. We harbor concerns that he, along with his associates, might be engaged in trafficking for sexual purposes, trading these young girls when it becomes apparent that their families are incapable of further pursuing legal action.”

Masih expressed his disappointment over the lack of action from the Roshan Wala Police Station to secure his daughter’s return, despite the family having filed an official report of her abduction by Shah.

“On February 15th, the police notified us about a submission by Laiba to a magistrate’s court, wherein she declared her voluntary conversion to Islam, attributing it to the influence of Islamic teachings,” Masih recounted. “We promptly proceeded to the court, only to find our underage daughter encircled by numerous police officers. Despite our insistent pleas, we were denied any opportunity to communicate with her. Subsequently, she was presented to the magistrate, where it is reported she reiterated the statements from her application. She further requested to be placed in the Dar Ul Aman [women’s shelter], a request to which the magistrate acquiesced.”

Masih recounted witnessing powerlessly as Shah, accompanied by the police, escorted his daughter to the shelter. “Following Laiba’s court statement, which I am convinced was coerced, we found ourselves utterly helpless,” he stated. “We were afforded no chance to inquire about the circumstances under which she was compelled to make such a declaration.”

He challenged the notion that a 10-year-old child could voluntarily choose to convert to Islam without even a rudimentary education, much less a religious one. “The assertion that my daughter willingly changed her faith is categorically false,” he articulated. “Her limited religious knowledge comes from the church’s Sunday school, and she has had virtually no interaction with Muslims since she remained home throughout the day to assist both her mother and me.”

Masih, who is affiliated with the Church of Pakistan, suffers from disabilities affecting both legs, rendering him and his wife unable to engage in employment due to their health issues.

Christian attorney Sumera Shafique advised that the family, given their disadvantaged status, ought to promptly initiate a legal petition with the high court for Laiba’s retrieval. To date, the family has not secured legal representation to assist in their cause.

“Laiba’s situation exemplifies the problematic invocation of Sharia [Islamic law] to contest the minority status of individuals,” Shafique observed. “Despite her official birth certificate clearly indicating she is only 10 years and two months old, she asserted in her testimony to the magistrate that she is an adult.”

Shafique has been instrumental in the recovery of several Christian minors who have been subjected to forced conversions and marriages, among them Maira Shahbaz, who was abducted and forcibly converted in 2020.

She expressed her disappointment over how families of victims, often hindered by poverty and illiteracy, are exploited by certain local activists for personal gain, thereby undermining the cases and contributing to delays in the retrieval of abducted girls.

“Victim families must seek competent legal assistance immediately rather than relying on intermediaries more interested in exploiting their situations for financial gain,” she advised. “In this instance, despite a month’s passage, it has been reported that the family has yet to have even a single meeting with their daughter.”

“A habeas corpus petition should be promptly submitted to the Lahore High Court,” Shafique recommended. “Given that the child is barely 10 years old, I am confident that the high court will regard her case of conversion with the utmost seriousness,” she added, suggesting that an immediate legal action could be crucial in preventing further sexual abuse of the girl.

Masih reported that four individuals not of the Muslim faith, working under Shah – Irfan Masih, Khurram Masih, Aneeqa Masih, and Grace Masih – kidnapped Laiba from their residence around midnight while the family was sleeping.

“Following my daughter’s kidnapping, it was revealed that this group has been implicated in numerous other cases involving the abduction and forced conversion of young Christian girls in Faisalabad,” he explained. “Their continued evasion from legal accountability is largely due to the protective umbrella of Shaukat Shah, who is infamously associated with the forced religious conversion of minors.”

Masih, a 55-year-old Christian, shared that his eldest son, aged 25, is the family’s primary earner, working as a day laborer. Laiba is the youngest among his three children, born a full 12 years after his second child. “Due to our limited financial means, I was compelled to withdraw Laiba from school prematurely, as we could not sustain the expense of her education,” he acknowledged.

Determined to reclaim his daughter, Masih is resolved to do whatever it takes. “I urge the Christian community leaders to come forward and assist in the rescue of my young daughter,” he implored. “She is merely a child who has been ensnared by these individuals masquerading as religious figures.”

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