The mother of a 12-year-old Christian girl, abducted in Punjab, Pakistan, has raised fears that her daughter will be forced to marry her captor and convert to Islam.
Meerab Abbas was abducted on 2 November in the Punjabi city of Sahiwal, and is believed to have been taken to an unknown location in Balochistan by a 22-year-old Muslim man, Muhammad Daud.
Police have registered First Information Reports against five people and have arrested two on suspicion of being involved in the abduction; however, they have yet to locate Meerab or her abductor.
Meerab’s mother Farzana, a 45-year-old widow, believes that Daud abducted Meera with the intention of forcing her to marry him and convert to Islam.
Non-Muslim girls and young women in Pakistan are frequently kidnapped and forced to convert before being compelled to marry a Muslim. The authorities do not always intervene.
“Meerab is only 12 years old and she cannot marry,” said Zahid Augustine, a church minister in Sahiwal. The legal age for marriage in Pakistan is 16 (except in Sindh where it is 18). “We call upon the government to consider these abductions and forced marriages as a grave issue,” added Zahid.
In September 2021 two sisters, 18 and 14, both Christians, who had escaped from their Muslim captors, reported being threatened with death if they did not each go through with a marriage and forced conversion.
In a separate case the same month, the Lahore High Court ruled that the forced marriage and conversion of a 14-year-old Christian girl was entirely legal according to sharia (Islamic law).