A Pakistani Christian father, Asif Masih, of Gulistan Colony, Faisalabad, who is still struggling to get his daughter back from her kidnapper says the police and courts are biased, and instead of registering a case against the kidnaper and recovering his daughter, the policeman told him to forget about his daughter and be happy because she has converted to Islam.
Farah Shaheen, 12, was kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and married to a 45-year-old Muslim kidnapper, Khizar Hayat, in June 2020.
But her father hasn’t lost hope and is running from door to door for justice for his daughter, despite finding it very hard especially being a Christian.
Asif said that after the kidnapping, Khizar (kidnapper) took Farah to a nearby Mosque and announced that a 12-year-old Christian girl who has now converted to Islam is married to him.
Merely three days after the abduction Khizar converted Farah and married her against her will.
Farah, who lost her mother five years ago is the second among six siblings. After her mother’s death she was the one who was raising her younger brother and sisters.
Asif said that soon after the abduction, he approached the police immediately but it was all in vain as instead of cooperating with him and getting his daughter back, the police were siding with the kidnapper, trying to protect him and refusing to take any meaningful action.
“I went to the local police station several times but it was no use. I pleaded with them to bring my daughter back but they refused to take any action against the kidnapper.
“I also wrote an application to the Central Police Officer (CPO) of Faisalabad but that too was not enough to get the attention of the law enforcement agencies. Finally, I decided to file a writ in the court following which the police registered an FIR. The entire process took about four months,” explained Asif.
Asif said that when he went to register a complaint about his daughter’s kidnapping at nearby Sarghoda Road Police Station, the police officers rebuked him, told him to leave the police station, and intentionally registered a very weak case against the kidnapper.
The policeman also threatened Farah's father, saying that if he ever went back to the police station, they would register a blasphemy case against him and he would have to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Asif further said that even after the registration of the FIR against the kidnapper, the police refused to take the case seriously. Instead, they started harassing him saying that he himself had hidden his daughter somewhere.
Finally, protests by Faisalabad’s Christian community forced the police to produce Farah in the magistrate’s court. Farah said in her statement that she had married Khizar of her own free will. But Farah had already been in the kidnapper’s custody for months by then and must have been threatened as happens in these cases.
Surprisingly, the court completely ignored the fact that Farah is visibly a minor and without second thought allowed her to go back with her abductor.
Asif calls the attitude of the police humiliating and the court’s decision biased as both were favouring the kidnapper and it was only because he is Christian.
“When I visited the police station to meet the investigation officer, Mussadiq Hussain, he got angry at me for sitting on a chair. Calling me “chuhra”, a derogatory term used for Christians in Punjab,” said Asif.
He added: “He used to use abusive language and used to say that Christians are meant to clean gutters not to sit in offices.”
Asif’s neighbour, Jamal Haider, confirms Asif’s allegations. Jamal said: “Once I accompanied Asif to a village near Hafizabad to meet the young Farah. It broke my heart to see such a little girl forcefully married to such an old man. How can the magistrate allow such an incident to take place?”
Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK said the situation is worrisome as the number of rape and forced conversion cases against Christian and Hindu minor girls continues to rise because of police and judicial bias.
He added: “I am also concerned the government is not taking this matter seriously as it is the government’s responsibility to protect and ensure justice to all its citizens without distinction of race and religion.
“Ignorance and inaction from the government is encouraging the perpetrators to continue committing such heinous crimes against Christians and Hindu minor girls, which are not acceptable at any cost in a civilised world.
“While minorities continue to demand justice and legislation to protect their minor girls.
“Recently we have seen there are several cases of Christian girls like Arzoo Raja, Shiza, Huma Younis, Farah and Shiza.
“We have also seen the condemnable conduct of the police and the courts, and Christians’ protest against them as the laws were ignored and the institutions that are supposed to respect and follow the laws, made a mockery of them.
“It is not just the Christians or Pakistani minorities, but the world is concerned about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan. Human rights are being violated on a daily basis by the law enforcement agencies and the government is not paying attention. Pakistan has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and therefore it is the government’s responsibility to bring its law in line with the treaties and punish those who are committing crimes against minor girls and taking children from their parents, which cannot be accepted at any cost.
“It is important that the government intervenes, ensures justice and returns all minor girls to their parents. Taking away Christian and Hindu girls from their parents in the name of Islam is not acceptable and the government must stop it.
“Minorities are feeling insecure and are concerned about their future in Pakistan.”