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Two Christian girls in Pakistan kidnapped, forced to “marry” Muslim businessman
Two Pakistani Christian girls were kidnapped recently by a wealthy businessman (with Muslim extremist links) in Punjab, Pakistan, and then were forcibly converted to Islam so that he could “marry” them.
Rebecca Masih and Saima Masih were kidnapped on May 24, by a group of men working for Muhammad Waseem, a rich local businessman. The girls had just left the market in Jhung, district of Faisalabad, when some men accosted them and forced them into a car that Waseem owns, Agenzia Fides said.
The following day, Saima was forced to marry Waseem. One of the guests in the ceremony was Muhammad Zubair Qasim, who is a member of the banned Sip-e-Sahaba extremist group, widely known for kidnapping Christian and Hindu girls and forcing them to convert and then “marry,” Agenzia Fides reported.
Rehmat Masih, father of the two girls, told Agenzia Fides that Waseem had warned him in the past that he would “marry” his daughters. As a result, Rehmat filed a police report, but no action was taken.
Upon learning of the abduction Rehmat again went to the police. The officers investigated but concluded that “there are false accusations against Waseem.” The police report speculated that Rehmat’s daughters ran away because their father drinks and assaults his daughters, Agenzia Fides said.
However, neighbors of Rehmat say that he is honorable and has never hurt his daughters. In the final interview that Rehmat had with the police he was told to “forget [his] daughters,” according to Agenzia Fides.
It is not uncommon for Christian and Hindu girls to be kidnapped in Punjab, forced to convert to Islam, and then to marry Muslims. Catholic Culture said the police in the area are also either powerless to do anything, or don’t wish to interfere because they are corrupt.
Haroon Barkat Masih of the Masihi Foundation said, “Kidnapping Christian girls, conversion and forced marriages have become common practice in Punjab,” according to Catholic Culture.
Haroon, who is also working in the defense of Asia Bibi (the first woman to be handed a death sentence in Pakistan for alleged violation of the blasphemy law), said that he believes the police are corrupt, Catholic Culture said.
Haroon, whose organization focuses on giving legal aid to persecuted Christians, said, “The police have been bought; instead of serving the Punjab government they are servants of extremist groups. Muslim leaders openly call for violence in their sermons, without shame. Punjab is becoming heaven for these groups,” Catholic Culture reported.
Neither has the local government been helpful. Haroon said, “We have repeatedly appealed to the Punjab government, without receiving an answer. The government supports these groups,” according to Catholic Culture.
A Catholic nun in Faisalabad, who requested anonymity, echoed Haroon’s claims. She told Agenzia Fides, “There are countless similar cases every year, that the Church of Pakistan has denounced many times, asking for respect for basic rights. The Masih sisters’ is a common fate of many girls and young Christian women in a society that tolerates discrimination on religious minorities, especially on women.”
The nun, who wanted her identity kept secret for reasons of personal safety, told Agenzia Fides that her pastoral work involves “[Promoting] the social status of girls who, for reasons of caste or religion, are living in conditions of subordination and poverty, especially through education and professional training.”