Farah Hatim, a 24-year-old Pakistani Christian student nurse, who has been working in the orthopedic ward at the Sheikh Zaid Medical College in Rahim Yar Khan, South Punjab, was allegedly kidnapped on Sunday, May 8, 2011, as she left for work at around 7:00 AM.
She was said to have been kidnapped by a Muslim man, who is reported to have been threatening the nurse, saying he wanted her to convert to Islam and then marry him.
According to Bilquees Marriam — Farah Hatim’s mother — the young man had been working as an office boy at a nearby bank, and was joined by his two brothers in the alleged kidnapping.
She further claimed that this family “kidnaps Christian girls and forcefully converts them,” and added that they were “supported” by a member of a leading political party.
After the event had taken places, the mother, along with her four daughters and two sons, said they went to the B-Division Police Station to file a complaint, but initially were told that he could do nothing.
“The Station Officer tore up our application and told us to leave,” she said.
The victim’s family then went to a nearby Christian area and protested outside the Superintendent of Police’s office and demanded that he “arrest the culprits and recover the kidnapped girl.”
According to eye-witness reports, the police “used force” against the protestors and “injured” several of them and the victim’s family were told that if they continued in this way they would suffer “dire consequences.”
But still they pressed their case and eventually the Superintendent instructed the Station House Officer of the police station to register a First Information Report (FIR) based on the application submitted by the nurse’s family.
The Christian community again gathered outside the police station, but they said that Station officer delayed issuing the FIR, thus providing time for the culprits to take Farah Hatim to the district courts and force her to give a statement in the presence of a judge that she had converted to Islam and wanted to marry the young man. She did appear in court, but did not sign any statement.
A local barrister from Rahim Yar Khan said, “Legally, when such a statement is given at the district court, the judge sends then everyone out and questions only the person to see if the statement was given is under pressure or by consent, but in this case the court room was filled with the people who kidnapped her and assaulted her. At the moment, the details of the torture are unknown.”
The legal expert said that even the Station Officer was present and that the judge ignored the fact that Farah Hatim was injured, and he didn’t question her about the wounds.
“She didn’t sign the statement, which clearly shows that she was forced to give the statement and the whole system is supporting and protecting the culprits,” he added.
Then on Tuesday, May 10, 2011, the victim’s family gave another application to the local police and finally got a case registered against the “three culprits,” but so far the police have not arrested anyone.
Human rights activist, Mr. Rizwan Paul, from Life for All, visited Rahim Yar Khan, and met with the victimized family, and assured them of his support and then took them to the local District Coordination Officer where a leading official directed that the alleged kidnappers be arrested at that the nurse be taken to the district so she could give a statement that was not under pressure.
Mr. Paul told ANS, “The south Punjab is a safe haven for the extremists, and the number of the cases of persecution of Christians there are the highest in all of the country. There are many cases that go unreported and unfortunately the local administration, police and politicians are protecting the culprits.”
He added, “Hatred for the Christians here is common and most of them are treated like animals. We have highlight several cases of forced conversions and brought it in the notice of the authorities, but they turn a deaf ear over it.
“Last year, for instance, during the flood relief activities, gross discrimination was witnessed in Rahim Yar Khan against the religious minorities.”
Farah Hatim is still at an undisclosed location in the custody of the kidnappers. The police have not arrested anyone despite the FIR.
Rodrick Samson is a Pakistani freelance journalist