A Christian family in Lahore, Pakistan is devastated after learning that their 24-year-old daughter was forced to marry her Muslim captor.
According to a report from the Daily Mail, Maryam Mushtaq was abducted by two Muslim men and bundled into a car as she was walking with her 11-year-old brother on her way home from college in Lahore last month.
Her family reported the kidnapping and gave police a description of the kidnappers' vehicle and a licence plate number. However, police told them that their daughter was not being held against her will, but had married the Muslim man who abducted her. Authorities informed the family that 32-year-old Muhammed Ali, who Miss Mushtaq's family claim is her kidnapper, had entered the police station and provided a marriage certificate, which listed her religion as Islam.
Because Mushtaq is a devout Christian, her family claimed that she would never voluntarily marry a Muslim, and say that she is being held against her will and has been forced into marriage.
"Three years ago my husband died of cancer, two years ago Maryam's sister died. Now kidnappers have taken away my daughter, I am devastated," said her mother, Mussarat Mushtaq. "Maryam was a good intelligent hard working girl, she went back to college to improve her chances for employment so that she could support her family. The kidnappers have destroyed her future."
The young woman's mother added that her daughter had a good relationship with her siblings and would have told them if she was interested in Muhammad.
"None of them have ever even seen him before," she said, "Maryam like the rest of us attends church every week there is no way she would give up her whole life and salvation to marry a Muslim man. Jesus has always been the center of her life."
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), which has been helping the family, says that local police are bringing Miss Mushtaq and Ali to court for a hearing this week. Unfortunately, the organization fears that as Mushtaq is still living with her alleged kidnapper, she may be forced to tell the court that she is in a lawful marriage.
"Yet again an innocent Christian girl has been kidnapped and forced into Islamic marriage,' Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said. "We do not know the depravity or the brutality she has had to face but her entrapment will have a sordid edge to it no doubt."
Chowdhry argued that the only reason police responded relatively quickly to the abduction was because it was witnessed by many in broad daylight.
"The abductors are known and yet the girl still has not been returned to the family and it is feared that corrupt police could collude with the kidnappers if bribed significantly," he said. "A justice system that does not permit the release of an abductee to her family is indicative of a flawed and failing rule of law."
Sadly, such cases are frequent in Pakistan, according to the BPCA, which in its April 2014 report "Movement of Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan" stated that 1000 girls are abducted, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year, 700 of which are estimated to be Christian girls.
Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a lawyer with Legal Evangelical Association Development in Pakistan, said in April that at least five Christian girls have been been kidnapped, married off and forced to convert to Islam in that month alone.
"In April in the area of Kasur alone, five Christian girls were kidnapped and converted to Islam and forced to marry their captors. These girls are denied the legal protection of individual rights," Gill told Fides News Agency.
Despite the heinous nature of the abductions, Pakistan's local police has failed to register a First Information Report of the crimes.
Pakistan, the world's second largest Muslim country, is ranked #6 on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians - who makeup just 1.6% of the country's population - and has received the maximum score in the violence category.