A 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl, who was abducted at gunpoint and forced into marriage by a Muslim man, was returned to her kidnapper by the High Court in Lahore on 4 August.
The court ruled that Maria Shahbaz, pictured below, had willingly converted to Islam, was legally married to Mohammad Naqash and should be “a good wife” to him.
The verdict overturned an earlier ruling by a lower court that placed Maria in a women’s shelter, pending further investigation.
Maria was kidnapped on 28 April 2020 close to her home in Madina Town, near Faisalabad, by Naqash and two accomplices, who fired gunshots into the air as they fled.
Maria’s parents challenged the validity of the marriage, which took place days after the abduction, and provided her birth certificate to the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court to prove she was underage.
Naqash, who is already married, claimed Maria was aged 19 and alleged they had married in October 2019. However, the Muslim cleric named in the certificate provided by Naqash denied any involvement in the marriage.
In a similar case in September 2019, a 14-year-old girl was kidnapped near Faisalabad by a Muslim man, forced to convert and marry him, yet police failed to take action until church leaders intervened. Non-Muslim girls and young women in Pakistan are frequently kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam before marrying a Muslim, but the authorities rarely intervene. It has been estimated that every year several hundred Christian girls, as well as a smaller number of Hindu girls, suffer such abuse.
From Barnabas Fund contacts