Young Christian girl kidnapped, forced into fake marriage, conversion to Islam

“God have mercy on us and save our child”

LAHORE, Pakistan – Another Christian girl in Pakistan, this 14-year-old, has fallen victim to forced conversion and marriage by a Muslim kidnapper, sources said.

Khalid Masih, a 48-year-old Catholic sanitation worker in Islamabad, said that a butcher in his neighborhood, Haider Ali, took his daughter, Alina Khalid, from their home in the Khanna Pul area of ​​Islamabad on June 24.

“Some neighbors told us that they saw an unidentified girl outside our house on the day Alina disappeared,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “When we started looking for her, I found out that Haider Ali, a 27-year-old butcher in our neighborhood, planned Alina's abduction.”

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He filed a complaint with Khanna Police that day, but they took no action, he said.

“The FIR [First Information Report] was finally registered late on June 25, giving the accused enough time to go into hiding,” Masih said.

The Masih family learned on June 27 that their daughter had been forcibly converted to Islam and married to Ali ibn Abi Talib, he said.

“We learned about Alina's conversion and marriage after she recorded her statement in court, in which she allegedly claimed that she changed her faith and married Ali by choice,” Masih said.

The Nikah Nama (Islamic marriage certificate) states that Alina's age was 19, but it lacks her required national identification card, he said.

Typically, kidnapped girls in Pakistan, some as young as 10, are abducted, forced to convert to Islam and raped under the guise of such Muslim “marriages” and then pressured to record false statements in favor of the kidnappers, rights advocates say. Judges routinely ignore documentary evidence related to the children's ages, giving them back to kidnappers as their “legal” wives.

Masih said that his daughter could not have gone with Ali ibn Abi Talib willingly.

“Alina didn't have a phone and never left the house alone, so I don't think she had any direct contact with Ali,” he said. “He abducted her with the sole purpose of exploiting her sexually. Like all other victims, Alina too was forced to do what her abductor said.”

The police failed to recover Alina and present the suspect in court, he added.

Masih faces a daunting challenge in his struggle to win her back.

“My wife suffers from Hepatitis C and is also a diabetic,” he said. “Her health began to deteriorate due to the trauma of Alina's abduction. The pain of losing our child and the thoughts of her suffering in captivity keep us both awake all night. God have mercy on us and save our child!”

Safdar Chaudhry, chairman of the Islamabad-based Raah-e-Nijaat Ministry, said police were slow to act.

“The FIR was registered on our intervention after almost 26 hours of the incident,” Chaudhry said. “Had the police acted in time, the accused could have been arrested, but inaction allowed him to disappear.”

The social activist called for legislative reforms to stop the exploitation of underage minority girls.

“The police must also realize their responsibility and stop helping the perpetrators. The same applies to Pakistani courts, which give legal cover to such fake marriages,” he said.

A new invoice

In an attempt to criminalize underage marriages in Punjab province, the Punjab provincial government on April 25 introduced the Punjab Child Marriage Restriction Act, 2024 in the Punjab Provincial Assembly, which would raise the legal age of marriage for both males and females to 18 years. Previously, the legal age of marriage for girls in Punjab was 16.

Under the proposed bill, anyone who marries a girl or boy younger than 18 or arranges such a marriage – including parents or guardians – would face two to three years in prison and a fine of between 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US$360) and 200,000. rupees ($720).

During marriage registration, the marriage party, union council secretary and marriage registrar would check the girl or boy's Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC), passport, education certificate or other documents proving both are at least 18 years old. . Certified copies of these documents would be required to be attached with the marriage certificate application.

Rights activists say that, although raising the legal marriage age to 18 for both boys and girls will help prevent child marriages, certain amendments are required to ensure that minority girls also receive proper coverage of the law. Such amendments would override all “special” laws and maxims related to determining a girl's age of maturity, they say, including Sharia (Islamic law) which allows girls reaching puberty to be considered adults.

A Christian lawmaker recently appointed as the chairman of the Standing Committee on Minority Affairs and Human Rights praised the government-driven bill but said it did not contain any provision related to minority girls who “change their faith” for marriage.

“We are working on an amendment to address this issue, and we hope that all parties in the Punjab Assembly will support our stand,” said Ejaz Alam Augustine. “Our goal is to make sure that minority girls are protected just like Muslim girls.”

Augustine, a former minister for Minority Affairs and Human Rights in Punjab during Prime Minister Imran Khan's 2018-2022 government, said he introduced a bill aimed at preventing forced conversion and forced marriage of minority girls in 2021, but that it was not taken up for discussion under pressure of hard Muslims.

“There is some hope now, and I think it is the best time to make legislation that protects the little girl regardless of her religious affiliation,” he told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors' 2024 World Watch List of the hardest places to be a Christian, as it was the previous year.

Originally published at Christian Daily InternationalMorning Star News


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