The persecution of religious minorities is rampant in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In a shocking decision, the Lahore High Court has ruled in favour of a Muslim perpetrator who abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and married an underage Christian girl called Maria Shahbaz.
Reportedly, a 14-year-old Christian girl, Maria Shahbaz, was abducted in Faisalabad in Pakistan in April 2020 by Muhammad Naqash and his accomplice while she was travelling to her workplace. The Lahore High Court has recently overturned the verdict of a Sessions Court in Faisalabad which had directed that the victim is rehabilitated in a woman’s shelter home. Ruling in favour of Muhammed Naqash, the Lahore High Court ordered that the 14-year-old girl should be returned to the man who abducted her.
This is the story of Maria Shahbaz. Lahore High Court orders that 14-yr-old Christian girl kidnapped, forcibly converted and married to a Muslim man, should be returned to her abductor. Overturning an earlier order by Faisalabad sessions court to place Maria in a women’s shelter. pic.twitter.com/2Q0omDHV6v— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) August 7, 2020
The Court ruled that Maria Shahbaz had willingly converted to Islam and married her abductor. Therefore, she must live in his custody and be a “good wife,” WION reported. The Lahore High Court refused to accept documents that revealed that Maria was a minor at the time of her abduction and marriage. As per the report, she was in tears when the judges proclaimed the judgment in favour of her abductor.
Reportedly, 1000 girls belonging to the minority community are abducted, forcibly converted, and married each year.
#Gravitas | A 14-year-old Christian girl, who was abducted at gunpoint and forcibly married, has been ordered to stay with her captor by the Lahore High Court. @palkisu tells you how fear has become a daily reality for Pakistan’s Christians@ImranKhanPTI pic.twitter.com/0kWOJ3Ab2R— WION (@WIONews) August 7, 2020
The case of Maria Shahbaz: Abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and married to her abductor
Eye witness accounts by Pervez Masih, Younas Masih, and Naeem Masih state that Maria was forcibly abducted in a car while she resisted. The men were armed and as such the eyewitnesses could not help the victim. The accused also fired shots in the air. Speaking to International Christian Concern, her mother, Nighat, expressed fears of rape, forceful conversion to Islam, and even murder.
She was indeed married off to her abductor and forcibly converted. While Maria’s marriage certificate stated her age as 18, it contradicted her National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) certificate. As a part of the modus operandi, a typed statement that she had left her home willingly was also produced.
Persecution of Religious Minorities
This is not the first time that such a case has come to light. Earlier, Huma Younus, a Christian girl who was kidnapped from her home in Karachi on October 10 last year, was reported to have become pregnant due to the incessant sexual violence perpetrated by her abductor Abdul Jabbar. As per the report, she was confined to the four walls of one room in the abductor’s house and was not allowed to meet her parents.