Pakistani Christians had their 12-year-old daughter kidnapped by Muslim house guests, who then forced her into an arranged marriage.
After a Christian family in Pakistan had their 12-year-old daughter abducted about four months ago and forced to convert to Islam, a high court judge ruled that the family could not have custody of the girl. Since then, the girl’s parents have had no contact with her.
As reported by Morning Star News, on August 18 Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan of the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench refused Parvez Masih and his wife Yasmeen’s plea for custody of their daughter Zarvia.
The judge “dismissed our petition in under two minutes — he even refused to look at any of the evidence” that “clearly showed that the minor child was threatened to give a statement in favor of the accused, Imran Shahzad and his wife Adiba,” human rights activist Sherkan Malik told the outlet.
Malik claims that the judge stated, “The girl is 12, she is married, and she did it out of her free will,” despite evidence showing that Shahzad had threatened to kill Zarvia’s two brothers if she spoke the truth about their marriage. The judge ruled that Shahzad and his wife can continue to care for Zarvia.
Rawalpindi residents Masih and his wife sought out Muslim lawyer Malik after receiving news that their stolen daughter had likely been murdered.
Malik told Morning Star News that Zarvia’s parents haven’t heard from her since May 14, when a court magistrate in Rawalpindi gave custody of the kid to Imran based on the girl’s verbal assertion that she had married the accused of her own free will. As the judge explained to us, “the girl had already recorded her statement, so this was just a frivolous case, and there was nothing more the court could do.”
The girl’s phone conversation to her older brother was recorded and played back for the family.
The parents used this information to submit a petition of recovery with the Rawalpindi court, but the case was thrown out the next day.
Abducted in April from the Comfort of Her Own Home
Masih had previously welcomed the Shahzad family into his house, but they were ordered to leave when Shahzad was accused of abusing his wife and three kids.
According to Morning Star News, Adiba returned to the residence on April 30—a full week after Shahzad and his family had left—and tricked Zarvia into coming to the market with her without telling her family.
When Masih and his wife saw that their daughter didn’t come home that night, they immediately started looking for her and phoned their Muslim family members. Masih claims that after that night, Shahzad called him to let him know that Zarvia was with him and that they shouldn’t bother his family anymore.
On May 1, the family reported the pair for kidnapping at the Sadiqabad Police Station in Rawalpindi. After 13 days, the police in Faisalabad reportedly found Zarvia dead in a brick kiln and arrested the Muslim couple and their accomplice.
Malik told the outlet that despite Zarvia’s age, she had been held in the same cell as Adiba at the women’s police station in Rawalpindi.
On May 14 she gave a taped statement to the court. She said she was just 14 and refused a physical because of this lie. The Muslim faith and her marriage to Shahzad, she maintained, were decisions she made on her own own.
Judge threw out the kidnapping case after hearing her testimony and released all three accused. The girl’s birth certificate, along with her school records and other proof that she was too young to get married, were all disregarded by the court.
Malik stated that the girl’s false claim of age of 14 was irrelevant because the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act sets the minimum age of marriage at 16.
They think they will earn a celestial reward for helping convert someone to Islam, regardless of how purposeful or forcible the conversion is, hence the police and courts often back those who conduct crimes like forced conversions, child marriages, and sexual abuse.
Rights organizations estimate that at least one thousand Christian and Hindu women are forcefully converted and married each year in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have denied these claims, but campaigners say the true figure is likely far higher due to underreporting.
CBN News reports that in its 2022 annual report, the United States International Commission on Religious Freedom recommended that Pakistan remain on a list of 15 countries as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations.”
On November 15, 2021, Pakistan became a CPC after being recognized by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
As of 2022, the country is #8 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of the most hazardous countries in which to be a Christian.
When it comes to the persecution and murder of Christians, Pakistan is second only to Nigeria. There were 620 persons killed because of who they were or what they believed between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
At 183, Pakistan ranked fourth worldwide in the number of church attacks or closures.
According to Open Doors, “Any Christian in Pakistan might be subject to harassment and discrimination, but those who are detected turning away from Islam face the worst treatment. The government exerts pressure on and monitors even long-established churches.”