Karachi (AsiaNews) - Pakistan's small Catholic community has been shaken again by another case of violence. An influential Muslim businessman in the district of Sanghar has repeatedly threatened a Catholic nurse who has refused to marry him, filing a case against her when she became engaged to another man. Despite the threats, the situation seems under control for now. Police, which so far aided and abetted the Muslim man, has been forced to provide protection to the Catholic woman thanks to pressure from Christian groups and moderate Muslims.
It all began when Ghulam Muhammad decided he wanted to marry Nazia Masih (pictured), a Catholic nurse from Padri-Jo-Goth, Sanghar District, who works at Cheniot Hospital.
Muhammad approached her with a proposal to marry him and convert to Islam. After she turned him down, he threatened to abduct her and disfigure her with acid.
Regrettably, Muhammad has a certain reputation in the district as someone who has already abducted, raped and forcibly converted local Hindu women to Islam. Those who dared sue him for rape were in fact unable to obtain justice.
On her way home on 10 May, Nazia Masih was approached by four armed men who warned her to accept Muhammad's proposal or else. After harassing her, they drove away. Frightened, she sought help at work but hospital authorities refused.
The girl's parents decided then to anticipate her engagement to Ejaz Joseph, a local Christian, on 26 May. However, Ghulam Muhammad interrupted the ceremony accompanied by several police officers who, without evidence of any crime, tried to arrest the couple.
Luckily, after the involvement of village elders, police took her father and brother away, but released them a few hours later. Eventually, Nazia's persecutor decided to change tactic and tried to pressure Joseph with dire consequences if he do not leave the nurse.
The girl's family decided again to ask the authorities for help and filed a complaint at the police station in Sanghar. Once more, Muhammad's influence thwarted an investigation into the matter.
In fact, police told Nazia that her tormentor now claimed that she was his wife, and that a family court would have to sort things out. This in turn caused an uproar in the Christian community and among moderate Muslims. The court eventually decided not to intervene in the case of false marriage.
Still, Ghulam Muhammad did not give up and began threatening not only Nazia's relatives but also Sister Maria Khurshid, the head nun at Saint Teresa Hospital in Mir Purkhas and a close friend of Nazia. The nun called on the authorities to provide the nurse with protection, but failed even to get them to issue a warning against the Muslim man. The situation is now at an impasse.
On Saturday, Muhammad filed another complaint to get police to force Nazia to marry him.
"I feel unsafe and face many problems and threats," Nazia Masih told AsiaNews. "I am also angry because my family is in danger as a result of that person's behavior. We are Christians and poor. That is why these things always happen to us. In Pakistan, our honour and property are not safe."
"This is shameful," said Fr John James, from the diocese of Karachi. "Such incidents should be strongly condemned by society. Countless Hindu girls are abducted every month from the interior of Sindh, and the authorities are silent about it. They need to do something to protect them. We call on the authorities to provide protection to Nazia Masih and her family."