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    » 04/08/2013, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Punjab, convert to Islam or die: The 20 year long nightmare of a Christian family

    Jibran Khan

    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.

    In 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 him up.

    These two incidents prompted the Zafar family to flee to Lahore, in search of a quiet place. However 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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    See also

    22/08/2007 PAKISTAN
    Two Christian girls of 11 and 16 kidnapped, converted to Islam and forced to marry
    The police fails to intervene, while the families fall into the hands of unscrupulous go betweens.

    25/08/2011 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Muslims kidnap 14 year old Christian to convert her to Islam
    Mehek Masih was taken from her home in broad daylight and under the threat of a gun. Muslim man intends to "purify her" making her "Muslim and my mistress." Archbishop Saldanha cases of this type are "frequent," the law does not protect minorities. One of the many "crosses" that Pakistani Christians have to endure.

    12/03/2010 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Christian maid burned alive to prevent her from reporting a rape
    Kiran George had burns on 80% of her body and died after two days of slow agony. The girl was raped by the son of her Muslim master. When she threatened a lawsuit, the young man killed her. In a second incident a Muslim mob burnt a Christian home and copies of the Bible.

    17/08/2012 PAKISTAN - INDIA
    Persecuted in Pakistan, Hindu and Christian minorities find little protection in India
    Hindu families are fleeing Pakistan fearing for their daughters kidnapped and forcibly converted and married to Muslims. Christian minorities suffer the same violence. In India there is a law for refugees and Hindus who have fled wait for decades for Indian citizenship. The Hindu nationalist party seeks protection only for Hindus. "Christians are doubly discriminated against." Policy towards minorities throughout South Asia urgently needed.

    19/05/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan, appeal for Christian girl kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam
    To date, the police refuses to liberate the girl, despite the repeated requests of the family. Mary Salik (fictitious name) was kidnapped last May 4 near Faisalabad by an uncle who had converted to Islam. The girl's father denounces conspiracy against his family: "My daughter has heart problems and was kidnapped by deception".



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