Christian family fights for kidnapped daughter in Pakistan

IN DECEMBER 2020, police officials in Faisalabad city, Pakistan, rescued 12-year-old Christian Farah Shaheen from a Muslim man Khizar Ahmad Ali who reportedly abducted, raped, and forced her to marry him. Shaheen spent five months chained up in a cattle pen in the yard of her 45-year-old captor’s home, where she was forced to work all day clearing the animals’ dung, her family claim. Her wounded ankles and feet were bandaged at the police station. The court sent her to a shelter house. In mid-January. 2021, police dropped the investigation, claiming that she married one of her abductors of her own will. Asif Masih, Shaheen’s father, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the family’s struggle.

“She was an identical twin. I couldn’t educate any of my six children, especially after the death of their mother six years ago. On the night of June 25, I was out driving my auto rickshaw [a three-wheeled motorized version of the traditional pulled rickshaw]. They forcibly entered my house, pushed aside my children, assaulted my mother and kidnapped Farah. They are criminals who challenged me to do whatever I can.    

“Whenever I visited the police station, the investigative officer, Mussadiq Hussain, called me chura (low caste) only meant for cleaning manholes. He abused me for filing a case in their community and threatened to put a noose around my neck. I was accused of lying.

“I took loan to file a writ in the court. The First Information Report was finally filed three months after the abduction. Hussain repeatedly said that she is with her aunt. I patiently listened and stood for hours outside his room. Still I was denied justice.

“A pastor reached out to us to help but vanished after receiving 15,000 rupees (US$ 93.33) from the abductors. A Muslim in our neighborhood accompanied us in the investigation and testified that Farah is underage and unfit for marriage. He helped bring about the arrest of Khizar. But he was released 20 days later.    

“On October 3, in the evening, Hussain informed us that Farah had married Khizar and testified in the police station. ‘The case is over and I have released Khizar,’ he said. laughing. This investigative officer is responsible for my plight. He advises forgetting her or be ready for the noose for getting my own daughter killed.

“Crying, she shared her suffering and insisted upon returning home. I also cried and shared how I ran from pillar to post. No one listens to us. Her twin brother fell ill after seeing the condition of Farah at the police station.   

Asif Masih holding a photo of his daughteer during a protest in Faisalabad

“Last November, my elderly father saw a group of Christians protesting in the case of another victim of forced conversion. He reached out to the organizer, a human rights activist, and requested he help us. On the first day at the police station, Farah cried and told how they tortured her. ‘I was tied Papa, what could I do,’ she said. She was also denied food sometimes, despite working hard on the harvest for a farm owner.  

“Later she was pressured to change the statement she made in court. Whenever she saw her abductor, she would become silent. Now she is afraid of me. She firmly believes that her family will kill her in the name of honor. I only met her twice at the shelter house.

“Her abductor puts her under threat to give a statement in their favor. Doctors say she is 17. My marriage certificate is 17 years old. The medical team is an accomplice. Not even the police is helping us. I wasn’t shown any certificate of her conversion or marriage. They have snatched my daughter. Police scold us for visiting the police station. Khizar never shows up. We are asked by police officials to ignore any call from their seniors. Nobody is sharing any update.    

“The case is in the session court Faisalabad now. Our judicial system is slow, packed with at least 300 cases. The judge only calls those of a serious nature. This is not a simple case. I beg Prime Minister Imran Khan and the whole country to return our daughter, who is 13. Everybody please pray for her safe return. We are poor people. My eldest son works at a glove factory. We shall be very thankful. We are still being threatened and continue facing persecution.”

—Kamran Chaudhry