09/15/2021, 17.35
PAKISTAN
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Young Christian woman endures months of violence in Faisalabad

by Shafique Khokhar

A Muslim man tried to kidnap Arushma Ejaz in order to convert her and force her into marriage. After a number of intimidatory and violent incidents, her mother turned to the Human Rights Focus Pakistan organisation. The police accepted the First Information Report only after 47 days. The second hearing of the case is set for tomorrow.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – After months of threats and attempted kidnappings, Arushma Ejaz, a young woman from Rabbani Colony, turned to Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) late last month for help after her complaints to the police proved useless.

A man named Ghulam Jelani has been stalking her for a while, going so far as to try to kidnap her back in mid-July in order to convert her to Islam and force her to marry him.

To this end, Jelani broke into Arushma’s home, armed, forced to leave only after neighbours intervened. In this incident, the police arrived too late.

In the following days, Jelani continued to follow the young woman in an attempt to kidnap her.

He threatened to kill the young woman's brothers if she refused to marry him, and then attempted to intimidate her family by saying that he would accuse them of violating the blasphemy law.

At this point, Arushma's mother contacted HRFP, which immediately brought the case to the Faisalabad District Court. However, the human rights organisation was able to file a First Information Report with police only on 2 September.

Under maximum security, Arushma and her mother testified before the court 10 days later. The next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

For HRFP President Naveed Walter, “kidnappings, forced conversions and forced marriages are not yet considered a serious matter by the state. The government sometimes talks about high-profile single issues, but never addresses the underlying causes, much less tries to eliminate them.”

A big problem continues to be police reluctance to get involved in such cases. In Jelani’s, he was held in custody for a while, then released without trial.

“From the first call to the police to actual action, 47 days passed,” Walter pointed out.

The HRFP told AsiaNews that it was concerned by how free and fair trials involving girls from religious minorities are, given the fact that “often political and religious figures publicly support the culprits.”

“Muslims who convert [to other religions] would be called murtads (apostates), so that only non-Muslims can convert,” the organisation added.

For the HRFP, the authorities must stop “protecting kidnappers and rapists who hide behind forced conversions and marriages to save themselves from punishment.”

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