At least four Pakistani Christian girls have been kidnapped in the first two weeks of 2022, continuing a trend that has become increasingly prevalent across the country. In many cases, the abducted girls are forcibly converted to Islam, married to their kidnappers, and then held in captivity – an outcome justified by fraudulent marriage and conversion certificates.
In one recent case of abduction, an unnamed 16-year-old girl faced repeated harassment through text messages and phone calls, as 30-year-old Muhammad Arif tried to convince her to have sex with him. When the Christian teenager continued to refuse, she was kidnapped on 7 January by Arif and two other men, who took her from Okara, Punjab, to Faisalabad. There, she was repeatedly raped until the men finally released her. Due to the physical and psychological trauma she endured, the teen has been unable to speak about the situation. Her family has since filed a complaint and arrests of the perpetrators have been made.
A human rights activist named Ashiknaz Khokhar laments the distressing increase in the number of attacks against girls belonging to religious minorities and the abuses these victims are forced to endure. In this case, he is thankful for the swift response of the authorities: “We appreciate the police for their quick response and action in arresting the perpetrators of violence against a Christian teenager. It is essential to break the culture of impunity.”
For 14-year-old Mahnoor Ashraf and her family, however, the devastating situation is ongoing. On the morning of 4 January, the Christian teenager journeyed from her home in Lahore to a local shop with her young nephew. When he returned alone, the boy explained to the family that some people had taken Mahnoor. After investigating the case further, they discovered that she had been abducted by their neighbour, Muhammad Ali Khan Ghauri, and his three accomplices.
When the family went to confront Muhammad, they discovered that the married 45-year-old father of two was missing. Three days later, his family informed Mahnoor’s parents that their daughter had converted to Islam and married her kidnapper. The family is pushing to have charges laid against all those involved, including Muhammad Ibrar, who solemnised the marriage despite knowing that Mahnoor was a minor. In order to justify the marriage, the certificate fraudulently indicated her age as 19.
The family understands that Mahnoor may have been pressured into a relationship with Muhammad Ghauri and, as a result, ultimately complied with him on her own accord. However, the courts rarely investigate whether declarations of consent are truly voluntary or the result of threats, psychological abuse and conditioning, or fear of social stigma. Furthermore, Mahnoor is a minor who is legally unable to marry.
Though Pakistani law states that intercourse with any girl under 16 years of age is rape and thereby punishable by death, the courts have repeatedly upheld marriages to underaged girls because Islamic law holds that marriage is allowed once puberty is reached.
Sources: Voice of the Martyrs AU, Agenzia Fides, Info Chrétienne, Kross Konnection, Morning Star News
Please pray for the healing of the 16-year-old girl from Punjab, as she now tries to cope with the aftermath of the trauma.
Pray for 14-year-old Mahnoor and the many other impressionable Pakistani girls who have been forced or coerced into abusive relationships, and yet are still being held captive by their abusers.
Pray that the perpetrators responsible will be held legally accountable and that the authorities will uphold laws that are intended to protect Pakistan’s vulnerable young women and girls.