A Christian father of a girl who was forced to convert to Islam to marry an older man decried what he described as the bias of the police and the courts in Pakistan in the case of his daughter.
Asif Masih of Gulistan Colony in Faisalabad said that instead of filing a case against those who took his daughter, authorities told him to forget about it because the girl has converted to Islam.
Farah Shaheen, 12, was reportedly kidnapped and was forcefully converted to Islam to marry a 45-year-old Muslim man in June.
Asif, the father, said that after the abduction, the kidnapper took Farah to a nearby mosque and announced that she had converted to Islam and is married to him.
“I went to the local police station several times, but it was no use,” Asif told non-government Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS). “I pleaded with them to bring my daughter back, but they refused to take any action against the kidnapper,” he said.
Asif said the officers at the police station told him to leave and even threatened him with a blasphemy case.
He said that when visited the police station to meet the investigation officer, “he got angry at me for sitting on a chair.”
“He used abusive language and said that Christians are meant to clean gutters not to sit in offices,” Asif said.
Demonstrations staged by Faisalabad’s Christian community forced the police to produce Farah in the court.
In her statement, the girl said she had married Khizar, her alleged kidnapper, of her own free will.
Human rights groups, however, said the court completely ignored the fact that Farah is “visibly a minor” and without second thought allowed her to go back with her abductor.
Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS, said the situation has become “worrisome” because of the rising number of rape and forced conversion cases against Christian and Hindu minor girls and the bias of the police and the courts.
“I am also concerned the government is not taking this matter seriously as it is the government’s responsibility to protect and ensure justice to all its citizens without distinction of race and religion,” he said.
Nasir said government “ignorance and inaction” is encouraging the perpetrators to continue committing the “heinous crimes” against Christians and Hindu minor girls in Pakistan.
A recent United Nations report noted that child marriages are still commonplace across South Asia. In Pakistan, nearly 25 percent of women in their early 20s were married by the time they are 18, the report found.