For information about the Orthodox Mission in Pakistan, see here.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“Kidnapper Wins Custody of 13-Year-Old Girl, Sources Say,” Morning Star News, March 27, 2024:

LAHORE, Pakistan (Christian Daily International–Morning Star News) – A high court in Pakistan on Monday (March 25) rejected a Christian woman’s attempt to recover her 13-year-old daughter, instead allowing the child to go with a Muslim who abducted, forcibly converted her to Islam and married her, sources said.

Shakeel Masih’s daughter, Roshni Shakeel, was taken from her home in Basti Khaliq Pura in Multan District, Punjab Province, on March 13 by a 28-year-old Muslim, Muazzam Mazhar, when Masih and his wife were out of the house for work.

Masih’s wife, Nazia Shakeel, on March 18 filed a habeas corpus petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) for the recovery of their daughter after the family was unable to find her.

On Monday (March 25), Sital Mari police presented Roshni and Mazhar in the court of Justice Ali Zia Bajwa of the Multan Bench of the LHC.

“My wife and I were hoping that the judge would consider it a clear case of child marriage and order action against the accused, but we were utterly disappointed when he completely ignored our pleas for justice,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

Masih said the judge set aside case documents without even looking at them and posed only one question to Roshni: Had she married Muazzam with her own free will?

“When Roshni said that she had done so willingly and wanted to go with Muazzam, the judge congratulated her on the marriage and said she was free to live with her husband,” Masih said. “My wife and I pleaded the judge to at least consider her age and the fact that the child was under the influence of the accused for over two weeks, and she could have been easily coerced into giving that statement. Instead of listening to us and our lawyer, the judge hushed us with a hand gesture and announced his decision.”

The impoverished Christian, a cleaner at a local restaurant, has sold household items, including mobile phones and his brother’s motorcycle, to fund efforts to recover his daughter and in a desperate quest for justice.

“All my efforts have gone in vain, because the court did not even bother to inspect her official birth document and other evidence,” Masih said. “Our lawyer argued that Roshni was visibly underage and the matter should be dealt as a child marriage, but the judge did not listen to him as well.”

Authorities did not give Masih or his wife a chance to meet with Roshni and ask her about her wellbeing, he said.

“In fact, the police and family members of the accused blocked her view during the entire time she was in the courtroom. They then took her away in front of our eyes, and there was nothing I could do to stop them,” Masih said as grief and frustration overtook his voice.

Despite the setback, Masih said he was determined to make every possible legal effort to bring his daughter home.

“Roshni is just a child, how can I let that criminal exploit her and then God forbid, sell her into slavery? I will not stop till I rescue my daughter,” he said.

His Muslim attorney, Muhammad Umar Ashraf, said he was confident that the court would notice the physical condition of Roshni and treat it as a case of child marriage without question.

“However, I too was dismayed when the judge flatly refused to admit my arguments and inspect the documents,” Ashraf told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “It looked as if he was in no mood to rule in our favor.”…