10/26/2021, 14.34
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Faisalabad: Misbah, 17-year-old Christian girl hiding to escape Muslim (VIDEO)

by Shafique Khokhar

Muhammad Saqib wants to kidnap the young girl and marry her against her will. To blackmail her, he sent Shahnawaz Masih, the girl's brother, to prison on false charges. The family lives in hiding and is desperate. There are at least 36 non-Muslim "child brides", of these 21 are Christian. In 2020, cases of forced conversions increased by 177%. 


Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - For over a month, 17-year-old Christian Misbah Imdad has been forced to live with her family hidden in fields and makeshift shelters to escape from Muslim Muhammad Saqib.

Faisalabad (Punjab) has the record for the highest number of cases in Pakistan of forced marriages and conversions to Islam. The minor has ended up in the sights of the man who wants her in marriage against her will. Pakistani law, often disregarded in practice, does not allow marriages of minors without explicit consent. 

Local sources report Saqib's repeated threats to the girl's father, Imdad Masih, to force him to give up his daughter in marriage. Faced with refusal, the Muslim denounced his son (and Misbah's brother) Shahnawaz Masih for stealing money and kidnapping Saqib's daughter. In reality, these are trumped-up charges for crimes that never happened, but the police were satisfied with the complaint to arrest Shahnawaz, who is currently in prison. 

Contacted by AsiaNews, from her hiding place Misbah confirms the situation of extreme difficulty in which the family finds itself: "My brother's small children  are here with me, but we can not feed them because we have to stay hidden to escape Saqib." Meanwhile, her father Imdad launches an appeal for his son to be cleared of false charges and to be allowed to return to freedom, in addition to calling for justice for the whole family.

The Christian activist Baba Intazar Gill says the release of 24-year-old Shahnawaz should be a matter of hours upon payment of a bail, but there is no official announcement yet. 

The story of Misbah is not an isolated case. According to the NGO based in Lahore Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), in mid-October there were at least 36 young people under 18 years old who were not Muslims but were kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. Of these, 21 are Christian and 15 are Hindu. In addition, cases of forced conversions increased by 177% last year.

Against the phenomenon of kidnappings for forced marriages had also intervened the Pakistani Parliament, with a law discussed and approved in the Senate in May 2019, but never applied in practice. In the House, in fact, members of the Assembly and the government linked to the Ministry of Religious Affairs opposed it because it was "contrary to sharia and Islam." 2019 Unicef data for Pakistan reported that 21% of girls are given in marriage by their family of origin before they turn 18, 3% before even 15. The country is 6th in the world for the number of child brides.


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