02/07/2023, 19.57
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A 12-year-old Christian girl kidnapped near Faisalabad and converted to Islam

by Shafique Khokhar

Hoorab Masih went missing in late December. She was found a few days later in a women's shelter, but then went missing again, despite the efforts of the local police chief. Her widowed father works as a day labourer and has to take care of four young children alone.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – A 12-year-old Christian girl named Hoorab Masih was abducted and converted to Islam by a Muslim shopkeeper in Chak 7, a village near Faisalabad, in the province of Punjab.

The girl’s father, Basharat, works as a day labourer (despite suffering from asthma and having a fractured arm) in order to support himself and his four children without his wife, who died six years ago.

When her father is absent, Hoorab is tasked with buying groceries for her younger siblings, but on 28 December, she didn’t come.

Suspicions immediately fell on the shop owner, Mohammad Mustafa, who was arrested by the police and began to cooperate, and on his assistant, Mohammad Usman.

When Hoorab’s youngest sister, Salaika, did not see Hoorab return, she went out to look for her in the village and several residents told her that they had seen her together with Usman.

As Mustafa confirmed later, Usman had enticed the little girl by telling her that he would buy her a new dress at the bazaar.

The next day Basharat Masih immediately went to file a complaint with the police in Nishatabad.

On 30 December, Mustafa was arrested and after a couple of hours Hoorab was located at the dar-ul-Aman shelter for battered and abused women.

According to the police, she had been converted to Islam. Still, after more than a month, she was still missing, while Mustafa was released on bail.

According to the father, police officers may have received money from the two Muslim shopkeepers. “A year ago I warned Mohammad Mustafa to leave Christian girls alone after he tried to take advantage of one of them in his shop. I think he took revenge on me.”

For Basharat, “The police station chief is cooperative, but investigative officer Rana Ahad seems to be reluctant. I think he took money from the families of Mustafa and Usman, and therefore is not doing a proper investigation.”

Speaking about his situation, Hoorab’s father said that he was "forced to take out a loan to pursue this case" even though he is a “poor labourer” who has “the responsibility of four young children".

Every day he goes to the police station to ask for news of his daughter, to no avail. “I asked politicians and law enforcement to listen to me: my daughter is only 12 years old, she is innocent. Please give us justice.”

Robin Daniel, a well-known human rights defender, is dealing with the case,

“We don't know when this chain of abductions and conversions to Islam of underage girls will stop,” he told AsiaNews, “but we will continue to make our voices heard.”

At least, “The positive thing is that the head of the police station, Mohammad Shoaib, phoned me a couple of days ago, informing me of the case and asking me to help the family.”

“I met with provincial parliamentarian Khalil Tahir Sandhu, who is helping us. The government must take tough action against the culprits. It's really pathetic that it's been over a month and the police haven't been able to find Usman and Hoorab.

“We don't even know if she's still alive,” Daniel laments. “It seems that the police investigation team is not doing its duty honestly. If the police do not bring us back Hoorab as soon as possible, we will mobilise to protest.”

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