November 22nd, 2020
By Ahmad Saeed
As the outcry over the forced conversion and abduction of Christian girl Arzoo Raja case subsided, a new case surfaced, this time in Faisalabad where another underage Christian girl, Farah Shaheen was abducted, forcefully married and converted to Islam.
Owing to the striking similarities between the two incidents it may even be easy to identify a ln existing pattern of such crimes.
Farah Shaheen, who is 12 years old according to the birth certificate issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), was allegedly abducted on June 25, 2020, by a man named Khizr Hayat who is reportedly more than 40 years old. Merely, three days after the abduction Khizr married Farah with a Mehr amount of just Rs500.
A copy of the marriage certificate obtained by Voicepk.net is tainted with illegalities. The certificate makes no mention of Farah’s age and does not include her identity card number.
Farah Shaheen, who lost her mother five years ago is the second among six siblings. She was raising her younger siblings in her mother’s stead.
Her father, Asif Masih, asserts that he approached the police immediately after the alleged abduction of his daughter but the police refused to take any meaningful action.
“I went to the local police station several times but to no avail. I pleaded with them to bring my daughter back but they refused to act. I also wrote an application to the CPO of Faisalabad but that too was not enough to get the attention of the law enforcement agencies. Finally, I decided to file a write following which the police registered an FIR. The entire process took about four months,” explains Asif.
Asif further explains that even after the registration of the FIR the police refused to take the cases seriously. Instead, they started harassing Asif claiming that he himself had hidden his daughter somewhere.
Protests by Faisalabad’s Christian community forced the police to finally produce Farah in front of a magistrate. Farah, by then months into her abductors’ custody, testified under article 164 that she had voluntarily married Khizr Hayat.
Surprisingly, the court completely ignoring the fact that Farah is visibly a minor and without second thought allowed her to go back with her husband/ abductor.
It is worth mentioning that the Child Marriage Restraint Act of Punjab clearly states that marrying any girl under the age of 16 is a criminal offense but neither the police nor the concerned magistrate paid any heed to this legal provision.
Asif calls the attitude of the police humiliating. He states that the investigation officer was biased in favor of the abductors.
“When I visited the police station to meet the investigation officer, Mussadiq Hussain, he forbade him from sitting on a chair. Calling him “chora”, a derogatory term used for Christians in Punjab,” states Asif. “He used to say that Christians are meant to clean gutters not sit in offices,” Asif continues.
When Voicepk.net challenged the concerned police officer over the use of such bigoted language, he outrightly denied using such words. However, Asif’s neighbor Jamal Haider confirms Asif’s allegations.
According to Jamal Haider, the police told Asif to rejoice over the fact that his non-Muslim girl had reverted to Islam. Haider called the growing number of forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls in the country worrisome.
He demands that all Pakistanis should rise up against such incidents. “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?” Haider asks.
Lala Robin, a Christian leader and social activist from Faisalabad, says that due to a sense of impunity surrounding such cases a mafia has sprung up in Pakistan which uses religion to justify crimes of lust. He says that the police’s attitude towards such incidents has created an environment of fear for the country’s minorities.
Lala Robin, laments the death of human rights lawyer and founder of AGHS, Asma Jahangir, calling her a force against such crimes. “I’d go as far as to say that Asma Jahangir’s presence had disciplined the courts and regulated their attitude towards crimes against minorities. All Pakistani minorities feel insecure after her departure.” Says Robin. Robin does not expect much from Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies but hopes that the culprits behind this heinous crime will be brought to justice.