Condition and whereabouts of two sisters, 12 and 10, unknown.
ISTANBUL (Compass Direct News) -- A Christian father in Pakistan is in a legal battle with kidnappers for the custody of his pre-teen daughters, who allegedly have been forced to convert to Islam.
Yesterday a judge in Pakistan’s Punjab province ordered further investigation into the kidnapping of Saba Younis, 12, and Aneela Younis, 10, who went missing on June 26 in the small town of Chowk Munda. The kidnappers filed for custody of the girls at the local police house on June 28, stating that the sisters had converted to Islam and their father no longer had jurisdiction over them.
When the father of the two girls, Younis Masih, was summoned to the police house to testify, police initially refused to file a case against the kidnappers – Muhammed Arif, Abjad Ali, taxi driver Muhammed Asraf and an unidentified fourth man – who are known to belong to a powerful human trafficking ring. Instead, human rights activists told Compass, Masih was told to “remain silent,” as the officers said the girls had embraced Islam in a written statement.
It was not until yesterday that, with the help of advocates and the Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ministry, Masih filed an official complaint at the local police house.
The lawyer of the Christian family, Khalil Tahir, said that the kidnappers have likely raped and sold the two minors to a brothel. Local residents regard the men as serial kidnappers.
Many details about the condition and whereabouts of the girls remain unconfirmed, and the family has not had contact with them. Tahir said the perpetrators did not bring the kidnapped girls forward to the hearing yesterday.
“Perhaps they have been raped,” Tahir said. “We’ve had no contact with the girls.”
Tahir, a human rights activist as well as a lawyer, said that in Pakistan minors cannot be coerced into changing their faith. Also a member of the Provincial Assembly, Tahir said that if the District Police Officer (DPO) did not cooperate and file the case in his station, he would take immediate action.
“I’m trying to contact the District Police Officer about the registration of the criminal case,” said Tahir. “They have not yet registered the case. It is the duty of the DPO to register the case, but he’s failing to perform his duty, so I’m trying to contact him or else I’ll take it to the high court.”
Ashfaq Fateh, a Christian advocate who established contact with Masih this week, said that the girls’ Catholic family had not received threats for their faith. He asserted, however, that the kidnapping was a religious matter.
“Being weaker and belonging to the Christian community, the girls were kidnapped,” he said.
Saba and Aneela Younis, the youngest of eight children, were kidnapped while on their way to see their uncle.
“The kidnapping of my daughters has made me feel insecure in the country,” Masih told Fateh in a telephone conversation. “My Muslim countrymen think we [Christians] are not human beings. They think we do not have dignity.”
“This happens every day,” Tahir said of the kidnappings of Pakistani children and unjust treatment toward Christians, “because we are marginalized and downtrodden people.”
Copyright © 2008 Compass Direct News