14-year-old Pentecostal girl kidnapped, forced to marry captor in Pakistan
Yet another underage girl in Pakistan has been abducted and forced to convert to Islam and marry her Muslim captor and police have allegedly been slow to act on the case, according to a report.
Mahnoor Ashraf, a 14-year-old Pentecostal Christian, has been missing since she left her home, along with her 8-year-old nephew in Lahore’s Cantonment area in Punjab province for a nearby shop on Jan. 4, Morning Star News reported.
The nephew later told Mahnoor’s parents that their Muslim neighbor, 45-year-old Muhammad Ali Khan Ghauri, had abducted her with the help of his friends.
When Mahnoor’s father, Ashraf Masih Chaudhry, went to the alleged abductor’s house, he was informed that he had been missing ever since.
“Ghauri’s house is on the same street, and our families had good terms with each other,” Mahnoor’s older brother, Akram Masih Chaudhry, was quoted as saying. “We don’t know when he managed to lure Mahnoor into a relationship.”
The abductor is married with two children.
Chaudhry then filed a police complaint but the investigating officer was slow to act on their case, Akram said, adding that on Jan. 7, Ghauri’s family informed them that Mahnoor had allegedly converted to Islam and married Ghauri on Jan. 4, the day she was abducted.
Ghauri’s friends who allegedly helped in the abduction have been identified as Muhammad Waqas, Raza Ali and Muhammad Imran. A local cleric who performed the Islamic marriage despite knowing that she was a minor has been identified as Muhammad Ibrar.
The marriage certificate states Mahnoor’s age as 19, though her birth certificate shows her year of birth as 2007.
“The police are not doing anything to find Mahnoor,” Akram was quoted as saying.
A 2014 report by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan estimated that hundreds of women and girls from Pakistan's Hindu and Christian communities are abducted, forcibly married and converted to Islam every year.
“Many victims are minors taken from their families, sexually assaulted, married to an assailant, and held in captivity justified by falsified marriage and conversion documents,” the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said previously. “Violence, threats and grooming tactics are used to compel victims to make statements in court supporting their captors.”
Religion is often injected into cases of sexual assault to place religious minority victims at a disadvantage, ICC previously reported, adding that perpetrators play upon religious biases to cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.
International watchdog group Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, ranks Pakistan at No. 5 on its 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution.
Pakistan is also listed by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for tolerating in or engaging in egregious violations of religious freedom.