The parents of a 15-year-old Roman Catholic girl in Pakistan’s Punjab province say their daughter was abducted two months ago by a Muslim man who has now forced her to marry him and convert to Islam, but police remain uncooperative despite the accused being identified.
Nadeem Masih, a sanitation worker at a textile factory, said her daughter, Saba Masih, was abducted on May 20 from the Madina Town area of Faisalabad city when she was going to work with her older sister, according to Morning Star News.
Masih said their 45-year-old Muslim neighbor, identified as Muhammad Yasir, forcibly took Saba away in a rickshaw. “Yasir has already been married thrice but does not have children from either of his wives,” he added.
The Christian girl’s family promptly called police but there has been no progress in the case.
“The police are not cooperating with us,” he was quoted as saying. “The investigating officer keeps telling us that Saba has converted to Islam and contracted marriage with Yasir, but he has not shown us any document as yet. We are pleading with police to at least recover the girl and arrange our meeting with her so that we can ascertain the facts ourselves, but he doesn’t listen to us.”
The accused claims he had an affair with the girl. “Yasir’s family has tarnished our reputation in the area with claims that Saba had an affair with their son, and that she’s the one who coaxed him into eloping from their homes. We have no one to turn to in this difficult time.”
Masih said that his wife, a domestic worker, recently suffered a knee injury and that is why their two oldest daughters were working in her place.
“I was forced to take my children, four daughters and two sons, out of school due to poverty, and my wife and elder daughters are working as household helps to supplement our family income,” he said. “We are already suffering from poverty, and now our daughter has also gone missing.”
A local group called Human Rights Focus Pakistan helped Masih to file a complaint with the city District and Session Court, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said, adding that two hearings have been held and despite all the evidence available, the police have made no progress, failing to rescue the girl or arrest her captor.
“The kidnapper has been clearly identified, two eyewitnesses have made statements in court, and the owner of the factory has admitted the kidnapping by the co-worker: Why hasn’t the police taken action yet?” the president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan was quoted as saying.
Saba is one of the at least three Christian girls who remain missing in Faisalabad city.
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.
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.