Abducted Young Mother in Pakistan Refuses Forced Conversion

Suspects warn family to stop efforts to prosecute.

Interior of Ghausia Mosque, Katchery Bazar, Okara, Pakistan. (Sunni Person, Creative Commons)

Interior of Ghausia Mosque, Katchery Bazar, Okara, Pakistan. (Sunni Person, Creative Commons)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Christian Daily InternationalMorning Star News) – A young Catholic mother’s eyes welled up with tears and her hands shook as she recalled how a Muslim in Pakistan kidnapped her and tried to force her to convert to Islam and marry him.

A 20-year-old mother of a 3-year-old girl and an 18-month old boy in Okara District, Punjab Province, [First name withheld for security reasons] Masih was abducted from her father’s home in Chak No. 11/4L village on April 17 by five Muslims – Ali Raza, Muhammad Irshaad, Riaz Ahmed, Muhammad Imran and one unidentified person, she said.

“I was staying at my father’s house since September after separating from my husband due to some family issues,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “On April 17, my parents had gone to visit some relatives in the evening, and I was alone in the house when the accused scaled the wall and abducted me on gunpoint.”

They took her by car to a deserted government school, where Ali Raza raped her while his armed accomplices stood guard, she said.

“Ali Raza lives in the same village, and he had been trying to force me to develop illicit relations with him whenever I used to go out for chores,” she said. “I told my father about this, and he had raised the issue with the village elders. However, our pleas for intervention were ignored, emboldening him further.”

After raping her, Raza took her to Lahore along with his accomplices, where they held her captive in a hotel room for three days, she said.

“During this time, Ali Raza continued to rape me on gunpoint,” she said. “He beat me up when I resisted him and threatened that he would kill my parents if I screamed or called for help.”

The distressed woman said that the accused then took her to his home in Okara where he and his accomplices tried to force her to convert to Islam and marry him by forcibly taking her thumbprint as a signature on a blank paper.

“They wanted me to surrender to their demands so that if there was any legal issue, they could claim that I had eloped with Ali Raza and converted and married him with my will,” she said. “Even though they tortured me to take my thumbprint, I refused to renounce my faith and told them that I will not deny Christ come what may.”

Angered by her refusal and fearing arrest, the suspects drove her to Quetta city, in Balochistan Province, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Okara District.

“On our way, we were stopped at several police pickets [checkpoints], but Ali Raza warned me not to raise alarm, threatening that he would kill me instantly,” she said.

After driving for nearly 20 hours, they stopped at a restaurant to eat and then left her there, she said.

“I only came to know that I was in Quetta when I asked some men about the location,” Masih said. “I had no money and didn’t know what to do. I was all alone in a completely strange city, my mind was already numb due to the mental and physical trauma, and I wasn’t able to think of anything. I was so lost that I couldn’t even recall any contact number for my family.”

She was sitting on a roadside wondering what would become of her when a Muslim woman, Shumaila Bibi, saw her and approached her.

“She asked me why I was sitting there,” Masih said. “When I told her what I had gone through, she offered to give me shelter in her house. Putting my faith in the Lord, I agreed, and she took me to her home in Loralai city, about 270 kilometers from Quetta, on a bus.”

It took her some days to heal and regain clarity of thought, after which she phoned her father and told him what had happened, she said. The greatly relieved father, Gulsher Masih, said he would come for her, but it took him some days to raise donations from relatives for bus fare, she said.

A daily wage laborer, Masih said that he and his wife had almost given up hope of seeing their daughter when they received her phone call.

“As days passed by without no information about her whereabouts and well-being, our hopes started to fade, but we kept on praying nonetheless,” Gulsher Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “When I heard her voice after 10-11 days, I cannot express how relieved I felt despite the pain of hearing what she had been through.”

Gulsher Masih was finally able to raise money to travel to Loralai and bring his daughter back. Of the Muslim woman who took care of his daughter, he said, “I can never thank her enough for treating my daughter like her own.”

He had repeatedly tried to file a case with police and also took the matter to village elders, he said. Raza kept returning to his home during her disappearance, so his family was able to convince the elders and police that he was innocent and that Masih had eloped with someone else, he said.

“Ali Raza denied before the elders that he had abducted her,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “He also tried to malign her reputation, saying that she must have eloped with someone, and I was wrongly blaming him for her disappearance.”

After her return, Gulsher Masih sought help from legal advocacy group Christians’ True Spirit (CTS) to register a case against Raza and his alleged accomplices, he said.

“However, they have obtained pre-arrest bail and are threatening me to withdraw the case or face the consequences,” Gulsher Masih said. “No matter what happens I will not stop the legal pursuit till my daughter gets justice from the court.”

CTS lead lawyer Nadeem Hassan said Masih recorded her statement before a magistrate.

“She has categorically denied converting to Islam and marrying Raza,” Hassan told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News, adding that her case was another example of how abductors-rapists use religious conversion and Islamic marriage to escape criminal prosecution.

Hassan said he is hopeful that Okara Additional Sessions Judge Ishrat Abbas will cancel the bail of the suspects and order their arrest.

“Her statement regarding her forced religious conversion, marriage and rape cannot be ignored by the court, and we are hoping that the judge will order addition of all relevant sections in the FIR,” he said.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, as it was the previous year.

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