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14-year-old Christian girl forced to marry her kidnapper and renounce her faith

by Tola Mbakwe
Maira Shahbaz thumb.jpg - Banner image

A 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan has been kidnapped and been forced to marry her abductor, as well as renounce her faith. 

Christian charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said Maira Shahbaz was taken on her way to work.

Two witness said at around 2pm on 28th April Mohamad Nakash and two accomplices - all bearing arms - bundled Maaira into a car near her home, firing shots into the air as they drove off.

On 5th May, Faisalabad Magistrates Court ruled in favour of Nakash, who claimed that the girl is 19 in spite of evidence being produced to show she is five years younger including a birth certificate, as well as official church and school documents. Nakash also bought 150 men to the court hearing to support him. 

John Pontifex from ACN told Premier, although law in some areas of Pakistan forbid child marriage, religious customs usually take precedence in such cases. 

"The difficulty here is that [although] law is in place, the Muslim community are often minded to follow Sharia law, which indicates that it is perfectly legitimate for a man to marry an underage girl provided she has had her first period.

"In previous cases lawyers have said that the law of the land may be one thing, but the custom is what should dictate. And they go so far as to say that these laws are only passed to show to the West that Pakistan is open for business and it's a morally sound partner in business, and with such laws, Pakistan can set out its stall on in the European market. 

"This means that for people like Maira and their family, they're powerless."

The family's Christian lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, said he would appeal the decision, taking the case to Lahore High Court and if necessary Pakistan's Supreme Court, which in October 2018 sensationally overturned the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman on death row for blasphemy.

About 1,000 Christian and Hindu women and girls are abducted every year in Pakistan, according to the Movement for Solidarity and Peace, a human rights organisation in the country.

Pontifex spoke to Maria's family shortly after her mother was discharged from hospital due to having a heart attack when she heard about the kidnapping. 

The family has begged for Maira to return home and are afraid that will never see her again. Maira's older sister, Saira, 16, said: "Maira is still a child and has been taken advantage of. She loves singing and I miss her and her singing so much."

ACN is supporting the family's case. 

Listen to Premier's full interview with John Pontifex here: 

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