by Marco Respinti —
Christian and Hindu girls continue to be abducted, raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to Muslim men in Pakistan, a phenomenon “Bitter Winter” has repeatedly denounced. This obnoxious practice would not prosper without some complicity by police and courts of law. Some cases do land in courts. But it is not easy for the victims to win them. Sometimes, the victims are treated as if they were the perpetrators.
Two cases of this month are of special interest. One concerns Mishal Rasheed, who was 15 when she was abducted at gunpoint on October 25, 2022, and taken to an unknown locality, where she was gang-raped by four men. These rapes are unfortunately customary and serve a specific purpose. It is believed that once no longer a virgin, a girl would become unsuitable for marriage, even if she belongs to a religious minority, and her only choice would be to marry one of her captors.
Mishal was then forcibly converted to Islam and married to one of the kidnappers, Abdul Sattar. After six months, Sattar’s brother died and, while everybody in the house was busy with the funeral, Mishal managed to escape and return to her father’s home.
They decided to report the kidnappers and rapists to the police. Not only did the officers refuse to investigate, but they also informed Mishal’s captors of what was going on. The girl and her father had to go into hiding for fear of being killed. Now, they went directly to the Lahore High Court, urging it to open a criminal case against Mishal’s captors. It is up to the High Court to decide, but the case is closely watched by activists for the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.
The second case concerns Samreen Aftab, who was abducted on August 22 this year by a young man named Muhammad Amir in the area of Faisalabad. She was immediately forcibly converted to Islam and married to Amir. Her father and six family members, knowing that most probably the police would not act, formed a rescue party and took Samreen back home.
Now “they” are the defendants in a court case where Amir qualified their rescue effort as kidnapping. They have been identified by the police and released on pre-arrest bail. Supported by Samreen, they should now defend themselves from the paradoxical charge of being the perpetrators rather than the victims.
Meanwhile, the business of kidnapping minority religion girls continues. The whereabouts of another Christian girl, Tabita, daughter of Razzak Mashi, kidnapped by four men on September 29, are still unknown. Her case was reported to the police on October 5, together with a birth certificate proving she is twelve years old, as her captors will probably claim as usual she is really 18. Whether the police will do anything about Tabita is a different question. — Bitter Winter