South Asia

Christian girl in Pakistan rescued after six months illegal detention

A 14-year-old Christian girl who had been forcibly converted to Islam and had been kept in illegal detention for the last six months was finally recovered and was united with her family after a campaign of support.

Sumbel from Mohallah Hasan Town, Hafizbad, Punjab province, lived there with her mother, four brothers and a sister, before, Munir Ahmed, a local police official, who works as Assistant Sub Inspector of City Police Station Hafizabad, took her into illegal detention.

Sumbel’s mother, Elizabeth, had approached the Christian activist group, CLAAS on 21 April 2017, to secure her release from the clutches of Munir Ahmed. Elizabeth’s husband and Sumbel’s father had passed away in 2013 and their family was one of the two Christian families in a community which is predominantly Muslim.

Sumbel had a good friendship with Mariam, who was the sister-in-law of Munir Ahmed and they would often visit each other’s house.

According to CLAAS, following a domestic quarrel in December 2016, Sumbel spent a day at Mariam’s house. In the evening Elizabeth took her daughter home, but Munir stormed into their house late that same night and asked Sumbel to go with him. He forcibly took Sumbel away after beating the family members.

The family approached the police and the local Parish Priest for their daughter’s release after Munir repeatedly kept them from seeing her. The local police finally intervened and Munir alleged that Sumbel had embraced Islam and that her new name was Fatima. He claimed that she did not want to return to her family, that she would stay with him and that he would get her married to a Muslim man. Sumbel, who was reportedly scared kept quiet throughout meeting.

Elizabeth had alleged “Munir Ahmed is a corrupt police officer who brings the girls from Dar-Ul-Aman, keep them at his house for some time and then sells them for prostitution.” She also claimed that majority of the girls whom he had converted into Islam were Christians.

Advocate Tahir Bashir from CLAAS filed a Habeas Corpus Petition in Lahore High Court on the behalf of Elizabeth for the recovery of her daughter on 26 April 2017. The court deputed a bailiff on the same day for the recovery of Sumbel and ordered for her to be produced before the Court on 27 April.

The CLAAS team along with the court bailiff went to Hafizabad and recovered Sumbel from the house of Munir Ahmed on the same day.

On 27 April Sumbel was produced before the Lahore High Court and the court granted custody of Sumbel to her mother. The CLAAS lawyer argued that Munir Ahmed, his wife Muqdas and his sister in law Mariam had forcibly kept her in their custody. The Court passed a strict direction to the Station House Officer City Hafizabad to register a criminal case against Munir Ahmed, Muqdas and Marriam.

Nasir Saeed Director CLAAS-UK told Global Christian News that forced conversion is an ongoing phenomenon against Christians and other minority girls. He however applauded the court’s decision in Sumbel’s case.  

He said, “Every year CLAAS deals with several similar cases but normally the court sides with the Muslim abductors, and decides the case in their favour, and sadly, under the guise of Islamic law denies custody of underage girls to their Christian parents.”

“Most of the time girls are threatened for their lives and their families lives if they return. Abduction and forced conversion of Christians and other minority girls is now a well-known issue and it continues to rise in Pakistan. CLAAS has raised this matter at the international level as well as with the Pakistani government on several times, but the government has failed to bring any legislation to stop forced conversion,” he added.