LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A powerful Pakistani politician’s aide who abducted a Christian girl from her home in Karachi has warned her parents that the same fate awaits their other daughters unless they drop charges against him and leave the city, the family said.
Khursheed Bibi told Morning Star News that Ghaji Khan, a close aide of Sindh Provincial Minister for Local Government Agha Siraj Durrani, had abducted 15-year-old Asma Masih from their house on Dec. 10 and forced her to marry him and convert to Islam (see "Christian Girl in Pakistan Allegedly Forced to Convert, Marry"). Authorities have refused to take Khan into custody in spite of court orders to arrest him, according to the family.
“We told the police that Ghaji is threatening us, telling us to withdraw the case or else he would abduct my other daughters, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” she said. “We have lost our daughter, but now it seems we also have to relocate to another city to protect my other daughters.”
The girl’s mother, brother and father Rehmat Masih saw her in the company of Khan’s underlings on Jan. 28 – and heard her plead for them to rescue her, her mother said – after a family member informed them that Khan and Asma had been seen at the Sindh High Court (SHC). The family members rushed to the high court from a hearing at the judicial magistrate’s court, Khursheed Bibi said.
“We immediately boarded a taxi and went to the high court, where Ghaji, Asma and some men were present,” she said. “I immediately ran toward my daughter, who started weeping on seeing me, but Ghaji and his men snatched her away and managed to escape from the premises after manhandling us.”
The family immediately telephoned Sub-Inspector Abdul Ghaffar, who has refused to arrest Khan, presumably because he is an employee of Durrani, who is both influential and biased against Christians, Khursheed Bibi said.
“We told him that Ghaji was at the SHC and was now escaping with our daughter, but the police official told us that he was at the judicial magistrate’s court for the hearing and could not go after the accused,” she said, adding that Ghaffar was openly siding with the accused.
The family told Morning Star News that Sub-Inspector Ghaffar’s refusal to arrest Khan has been unwavering in spite of repeated court orders to do so.
“On Jan. 21, the judicial magistrate issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Ghaji Khan and ordered police to arrest the accused within 24 hours, but Sub-Inspector Ghaffar has been making excuses to avoid arresting the man, who is running a prostitution racket in the city with the blessings and support of Minister Durrani, a close confidante of President Asif Zardari,” a member of the family told Morning Star News.
Ghaffar later told the family – falsely, according to their lawyer – that Khan had filed an application before the SHC seeking protective bail and “security” from the girl’s family. Khursheed Bibi said that that the supposed court petition claimed that Farzana (the Muslim name imposed on her after forced conversion) and Khan had married against her parents’ wish, and that now the family was harassing them through the police.
“Ghaffar said that now that Ghaji had filed a petition in the SHC, he could not arrest him until his petition was decided by the court,” she said. “But the police official had lied to us about the SHC petition, as our lawyer found out later from the court that no such action had been initiated.”
Sub-Inspector Ghaffar insisted to Morning Star News that the couple had surrendered to the SHC and had filed a petition against the girl’s family and police for harassment.
“The SHC accepted the petition, and the matter is pending before the court,” he said.
He denied Khursheed Bibi’s accusations that he was supporting Khan in the investigation, saying he never asked the girl’s mother to stop pursuing the case. But the family’s attorney, Aamir Jamil, said that police were lying about Khan having sought the SHC’s intervention in the case.
“I checked with the SHC Registrar’s Office, and there’s no record of any such application,” Jamil said. “Sub-Inspector Ghaffar made up the story to discourage the family from pursuing the case.”
Jamil informed the court on Jan. 29 that police were using delay tactics to avoid arresting Khan and to put off recording an independent statement by Asma in court.
“The court took strict notice of the police official’s mala fide intentions and issued a show-cause notice to him to explain why he hadn’t arrested the accused so far,” he said.
Jamil said police were obligated by law to produce the girl in court to record her statement about whether she had been forcibly converted and forced to marry Khan or had done so of her own will.
“We have also asked the court to move Asma to a women’s shelter home until the case is decided,” he said. “Asma’s statement under sections 161 and 164 are mandatory to get to the bottom of things, but the police are deliberately hindering this legal process.”
Asma is 15 years old and four months according to her birth certificate, while Khan is claiming that she is more than 16, he added.
“According to Islamic sharia law, the marriageable age of girls must be 16,” he said. “If the police produce the girl in court, we will seek a medical board to determine her age to support our claim that she is underage, and hence the act of getting her married by an Islamist cleric is also illegal and punishable under the law.”
Jamil said he had advised the family to file a court petition to change the investigating officer of the case, as Ghaffar’s complicity was quite evident by his reluctance to arrest the accused despite repeated court orders.
Khursheed Bibi said that not only have police ignored the family’s complaints about Khan’s threats, but Ghaffar has also pressured them to drop the case, telling her “the accused was very influential and beyond the reach of the courts and police,” she said.
"He has often told us that the girl might never be returned to the family, as she was a Muslim now and would continue to stay with her lawful husband,” she said. “Even if this is the case, why isn’t he producing her in court where she can speak her mind?”
The family has given up hope of ever seeing Asma returned to them, she said.
Jamil said police today submitted a charge-sheet in court, claiming that they had been unable to arrest the accused as he was absconding.
“The court has now fixed Feb. 8 to record Khursheed Bibi’s statement, during which we will move an application for changing the investigating officer,” he said.
c. 2013 Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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Publication date: February 7, 2013