Alarming Increase in Kidnappings and Forced Marriages of Christian Girls in Pakistan

During the initial months of this year, there has been a marked escalation in the incidents of abduction, forced marriage, and conversion of young Christian girls in various districts of Punjab province, Pakistan, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, and Sialkot.

The visibility of these incidents has increased somewhat due to the exposure provided by social media platforms, suggesting that the actual number of occurrences may be higher than reported.

One distressing case involved a young girl named Sania, daughter of Amin Masih. She was forcibly abducted at gunpoint by Muhammad Saif and Muhammad Sharjeel in the village of Najootar, Sialkot, within the jurisdiction of the Sadar police station. Following her abduction, she was compelled to convert to Islam and marry one of her captors. Upon reporting the incident to the police, her father faced violent retribution; his house was attacked, and he received threats against his life and the safety of his other daughters.

Dr. Emanuel Adil Ghouri, Chairman of the Christian Awareness Movement, promptly engaged with the affected family, assuring them of legal support. Subsequently, he, along with the family, approached the district police to advocate for justice. Additionally, three Christian members of the Punjab Provincial Assembly also intervened, urging the police to register the case formally. However, the police response remained lackluster, neither apprehending the culprits nor showing any intent to register the case, despite the legal provisions against child marriage under Pakistan’s Marriage Act.

In another alarming instance at the Aguki police station area in Sialkot, a 14-year-old Christian girl named Mehek, daughter of Younis, was kidnapped by Muhammad Tanveer and forcibly converted and married. Despite clear violations, the local police refrained from taking any action against the accused.

These cases are emblematic of a broader issue facilitated by a certain degree of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, especially influential religious figures like Qari Mohammad Shakir, who oversees these forced marriages. His considerable influence has deterred the police from registering cases against him, emboldening his stance and further perpetuating these grave violations of human rights.

These incidents underscore an urgent need for systemic changes to ensure the enforcement of existing laws and protect vulnerable communities from such egregious abuses.

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