A young Christian girl, Naina Ashraf, 13, of Tibba Samad, Manga Mandi, Lahore was kidnapped by her 38-year-old Muslim neighbour who converted her to Islam and then married her.
Ashraf Masih, 45, Naina’s father who was sitting with his wife Tahira, said he has five children. His eldest daughter Samoan is 17, Sunaina, 15, Naina 13, Yeshua 11 and the youngest daughter Shiza is 10.
He is a sweeper at Ali Children Hospital, Manga Mandi, and he is the only breadwinner while Tahira. Tahira said her family had been living in the village for generations.
She said that 18 January 2023 was the darkest day of her life.
“As usual Naina was playing with her sibling and suddenly went outside. I thought she went to play with her friends. I got busy with chores, but in the evening when my husband came back home, he asked me for Naina and then I started looking for her but she was not around.
“We got worried and started searching for her everywhere, asked our neighbours if anyone had seen Naina, but everyone said no. It was very scary.
“We also asked our neighbour Muhammad Iqbal he said Naina was like his younger sister and he hadn’t seen her, but all the while she was inside his house.
“ Naina’s father and I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, we went to the Manga Mandi police station and told the police officer about Naina being missing. He registered a first information report (FIR) and told us that they would try their best to find her as soon as possible.”
She continued that the next day Muhammad Iqbal appeared with a marriage and conversion certificate of Naina, and it was like the sky had fallen down on them.
Tahira said: “We requested him to let us meet our daughter, but he refused and said she didn’t want to meet us.”
With a heavy voice and tears in her eyes, Tahira said that after that day, until now she hasn’t seen Naina, it is a very difficult situation. She prays for her safety several times a day.
She continued: “We are not educated and do not know much about the law, some people have been helping us in the past but it is all in vain. We don’t know whether we will ever see our daughter again or not.
“Our daughter is kidnapped, we are victims but instead the kidnapper who should be arrested has registered a complaint against us at the police station, and has asked for police protection for Naina and himself.”
Naina’s father who was sitting quietly and looking at the floor raised his head and said: “On 5th march, Iqbal and his companion attacked my wife when she was coming home. We have informed the police, who are investigating the matter but there is no response.
”We are poor while Iqbal and his companion are powerful and influential people therefore the police hesitate to take any action against them.”
Akram Masih, Naina’s uncle, said there is a Christian organisation that is giving them legal aid for Naina’s case, and they pray and hope that she is recovered safely and returned home.
He further said that Iqbal must be punished for kidnapping Naina, and that she is only a child. He appealed to the Pakistani government for the protection of underage Christian girls in Pakistan.
An estimated average of 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are forced to convert to the Islamic faith every year. However, human rights organisations working on the issue believe that it is highly plausible that a substantial number of occurrences remain unreported. Forced conversion of religious minorities primarily in girls, some younger than 12 years old, seems to have become a norm not only for the Pakistani government but for the community as well. Hardly any member of society admits to seeing the severity of the problem at hand. Moreover, government and law enforcement agencies, those with power who supposedly are knowledgeable about the laws and legalities regarding human rights, are aware of the situation yet turn a blind eye.