Pakistan—Maira’s Struggle for Justice Takes a Fresh Turn

The case of a Catholic girl from Madina Town, near Faisalabad has taken an unexpected turn after the defendant failed to appear in court.

The 14-year-old Pakistani girl and her family continue her struggle to be free of the man who raped—and blackmailed her into marriage and religious conversion.

A Rawalpindi court requested new evidence in Maira Shahbaz’s case: including medical reports and documentary material, police records and birth and marriage.

Mohamad Nakash Tariq did not appear at the court which heard a petition to cancel his marriage to Maira on grounds that she is underage and that it took place against her will.  The court’s request to review the evidence followed an earlier court decision, which sanctioned the girl’s marriage to Mr. Nakash on grounds that she had “embraced” Islam.

However, on August 18—barely two weeks after the supposed marriage—Maira went to police, saying she had escaped Mr. Nakash’s home in Faisalabad and filing a series of complaints against him, accusing him of kidnapping her at gunpoint, drugging her, forcing her to marry him and convert to Islam.

Maira said he raped and blackmailed her by threatening to release a video understood to show her being gang-raped. The girl also accused him of forcing her into prostitution.   Maira said that Mr. Nakash had said he would kill both her and her family if she were to return to them.

Her defence centres on a birth certificate and other official documentation showing she was 13 at the time of her marriage to Mr. Nakash, which he claims took place last October. The Muslim cleric whose signature appears on the marriage certificate, has since dismissed the document as a fake.

A Family Afraid for Their Lives

The court, which met last September 23, requested Maira undergo medical tests to confirm sexual abuse. There are concerns, however, that such evidence may be weak given that the incidents in question took place at least six weeks ago.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Maira’s lawyer, Sumera Shafique, said: “Maira’s family are concerned that Mr. Nakash wants to re-kidnap her and kill both her and her family.”

Miss Sumera said that overall the evidence was clearly in Maira’s favour but that, even if she wins the case, she will not be safe, adding: “By leaving Mr. Nakash and returning to her family, Maira will always be considered an apostate from Islam in the eyes of Mr. Nakash and mob groups, and they will continue to demand that she be killed.”
Miss Sumera said the girl and her family continue to receive death threats and though they are in hiding and have 24-hour police protection as ordered by the court, their safety cannot be guaranteed.

The lawyer said in recent days neighbours had reported being approached by suspicious people asking about the family’s location.  “The family are very afraid,” Ms. Sumera said.

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