» 04/08/2013, 00.00
Punjab, convert to Islam or die: The 20 year long nightmare of a Christian family
Since the late 1980s Sadiq Masih Zafar and his family have been living under the constant threat of Islamist groups. In 1998, his daughter was kidnapped and seriously injured. Today her sister is being threatened with a similar fate. Despite reporting these threats, the police has never intervened. Lahore Priest: extremists enjoy impunity.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - For more
than 20 years, a Pakistani Christian family has been living in a constant state
of fear, the victim of threats from extremist groups and under constant pressure
from the radical fringe to convert to Islam. A
tragic story in a country increasingly hostage to the Islamists, in which young
people prefer Sharia law and the military to the democratic model proposed
by the West and branded as "corrupt." In
recent times, threats and pressures against the Zafar family have increased. And
the father has been forced to lock one of his daughters indoors for fear she
will become a victim of kidnapping, as was the case in 1998 when her older
sister was abducted and subjected to torture.
Sadiq Masih Zafar, born in
Muridke, a town in the district of Shaikhupur, in the province of Punjab, was
appointed to oversee the construction of a church between 1988 and 1989, by the
Lahore Church Council that had
previously purchased the land. Since
then Islamic extremist groups have showered him with threats and injunctions,
ordered him to stop building places of worship and convert - with his family
members - to Islam.
1990, a raid of fanatics led to the demolition of the structure and the
confiscation of the land. In
the context of the assault, the Islamists also violently attacked Zafar and some
relativesHis reporting of the incident to police proved futile, who closed the
case without proceeding to any investigation. A
similar result, a few months later, when the man filed a complaint against the
daily threats of fundamentalists who want him to convert to Islam.
In 1998, Zafar's daughter,
Sarwat Naheed was kidnapped while returning home and subjected to violence and
torture that resulted in the breaking of her legs and deep wounds to the head. The
girl also had signs of strangulation and was found abandoned and unconscious in
a field. A
few days later his son Azeem Zafar was stopped by a group of people, who beat
two incidents prompted the Zafar family to flee to Lahore, in search of a quiet
the extremists hunted them down, and discovering their new home, continued to
threaten them with death. On
27 March 2004 the threats became facts: masked men burst into the house and took
the family members hostage, threatening them with death. The
raid ended with no casualties or injuries, but even this time the police
refused to open an investigation.
After a few years
of relative calm, the nightmare of the extremist threat returned to haunt the Zafar
family, forcing the father to isolate his daughter Asma Tosheeba at home for
fear that she too could be kidnapped by criminals and suffer the same violence as
her brother and sister. Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr. Suleman
John, priest and activist in Lahore, appeals to the authorities to protect the
safety of the family. "It's
a very serious case - says the priest - and result of religious intolerance.
Extremists do what they want, knowing they will go unpunished. Punjab remains
the epicenter of sectarian persecution."
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