Christian Family Seeks Justice in Daughter's Abduction Case

Lahore, March 20, 2024: A Christian family in Muridke is currently facing a distressing situation with the mysterious disappearance of their 14-year-old daughter, Shifa Rafaqat, who is a student in 8th grade. Shifa’s father, Rafaqat Masih, reported her abduction from their home in Mannoo Abad, Muridke, while he was on duty at Mayo Hospital Lahore on November 27, 2023.

The ordeal began when Rafaqat, after failing to find his daughter despite frantic searches, registered an FIR on November 29, 2023, at the City Muridke Police Station. The case, registered as FIR No 1967/23 under section 365B, names Ghulam Rasool as the suspected kidnapper. Rafaqat Masih also voiced concerns about a local Muslim woman, Najma Bibi, allegedly being involved in the abduction.

However, the investigation faced setbacks when a suspect was briefly detained but subsequently released due to a lack of sufficient evidence. The family's distress was compounded upon receiving a marriage certificate and a document claiming Shifa's conversion to Islam, which they believe to be fabricated.

In a disheartening legal development, Rizwan Ahmed, the Magistrate of the District Court Lahore, dismissed the FIR on March 11, 2024. This decision was based on Shifa’s statement under section 164, where she allegedly claimed to be an adult who had willingly converted and married. The court's decision overlooked the family's submission of Shifa's birth certificate, which showed her age as 14 at the time of her disappearance.

The Masih family is now taking their fight for justice to the Lahore High Court, with a hearing scheduled for March 27, 2024, before Judge Muhammad Amjad Rafiq. Despite currently lacking legal representation, the family remains hopeful as friends and community members have pledged support for legal fees.

Rafaqat Masih steadfastly disbelieves in Shifa's alleged conversion and marriage, citing his daughter's strong Christian faith and the improbability of such actions by a minor. He expressed his concerns about the challenges his family is facing, including the impact on his children’s education and the financial burden due to legal expenses. His wife Ruby is working in a warehouse, and their three sons, younger than their two daughters, have stopped attending school since November 27, 2023.

This case not only underscores the individual tragedy of Shifa and her family but also highlights the broader issues of vulnerabilities faced by religious minorities, particularly involving young girls and forced conversions in Pakistan. The local Christian community has rallied around the Masih family, calling for solidarity and support in their quest for justice and the safe return of their daughter.

As the Lahore High Court prepares to hear the case, there is an increasing demand for a thorough and fair investigation. The Masih family's struggle emphasizes the urgent need for legal and societal measures to protect vulnerable minorities and ensure that justice prevails in cases of alleged abduction and forced conversion.