September 8, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
It has now been a month since Gulzar Masih, a rickshaw driver from Faisalabad, began a frantic, grueling search for his 13-year-old daughter, Chashmaan.
Gulzar relates that his daughter was kidnapped from her school by unidentified individuals on July 27. When he lodged a first information report (FIR) with the police, he was forwarded a video of Chashmaan “converting” to Islam and a snap of a nikkahnama with a Muslim man who went by the name of Usman on his WhatsApp number.
Chashman’s age on the marriage certificate is 19 years, whereas per her B-Form registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), she is just 13 years and nine months old, well below the minimum marriageable age as stipulated by Punjab’s laws. Gulzar however says this crucial detail was swept aside by both the police and the courts.
A Sahiwal court disregarded the girl’s age and awarded her custody to her “husband” on the basis of her statement under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C).
“The court recorded her statement without sending us the summons,” he lamented.
Gulzar told Voicepk.net that Chashmaan’s mentally ill mother’s condition plummeted since the incident.
“She goes into fits, tossing pans and tearing her clothes. She keeps begging me to bring back Chashmaan.”
Incidents of forced conversion of Hindu and Christian girls in Pakistan have increased in recent years. To address this, the Ministry of Human Rights recently presented a draft bill criminalizing forced conversions. However, the bill has been rejected by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Council of Islamamic Ideology (CII) for not being in line with Shariah.
According to Qibla Ayaz, Chair of CII, such incidents have nothing to do with religion rather they stem from social factions, and that girls tend to convert to Islam in order to marry of their choice.
In this regard, Christian activist Lala Robin says that forced conversion is sadly a reality, and that it is not possible to solve a problem without acknowledging it exists first.
Lala Robin and Gulzar have approached AGHS Legal Aid Cell, a pro bono law firm that extends free legal aid to women, children and other vulnerable groups, for justice and to secure Chashmaan’s freedom from her captor.