06/06/2019, 13.34
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Christian girl abducted in Faisalabad may have been forcibly converted

by Shafique Khokhar

Sania Lateef, 15, went missing on 25 May. Some witnesses saw her being abducted by two Muslims. Activist group brought the case before a district court, but the investigation appears to be going nowhere.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Sania Lateef, a 15-year-old Christian girl, was abducted to be converted against her will in order to marry a Muslim man, this according to Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP).

For Walter, the case of the Christian girl is the latest in a long series of abductions for the purpose of forced conversion and marriage in Pakistan.

Sania went missing ten days ago and has not been heard ever since. She lives in Kokian Wala, Faisalabad, with her parents Lateef Masih and Asia Bibi, and her brother Suleman.

On 25 May she left home to throw away some garbage, but never came back. Concerned about her absence, her parents went looking for her, asking neighbours if they had seen their daughter.

At that point, witnesses reported that Sania had been abducted by two Muslim men, Muhammad Naveed and Muhammad Pervaiz. The following day the family filed a complaint, but the Razaabad police station did not launch any investigation.

"Sania Lateef is a juvenile,” said Walter. “Child marriage must be strictly forbidden in Pakistan.” Instead, “violations of the law are happening with girls from religious minorities.” The HRFP “urged the Government and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice”.

In Pakistan the victims of kidnapping and forced conversion are almost always girls from religious minorities, whose members lack the power and money needed to file complaints and go to trial.

Conversely, the perpetrators are usually older Muslim men who want to marry young and attractive girls.

Sania comes from a very humble family. Her father works at a local wood market and her mother is a homemaker.

Given the uncooperative attitude of the police, Sania’s father turned to the HRFP on 27 May. The group is providing legal assistance and have helped the family file a complaint with the Faisalabad district court, asking them to arrest those responsible for the abduction.

Naveed Walter also visited the police station to demand the investigation to be speeded up. Superintendent Muhammad Nadeem Abbas transferred the case to the Deputy Superintendent of Police Gulberg Faisalabad.

“During January-June 2019, 75 per cent of the cases that came to the HRFP office were about minority girls’ abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages,” Walter explained.

“The rising insecurity is a burning issue. We are trying our best and putting pressure on the police to arrest the culprits,” he said, “but we do not see any progress”.

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