On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court in Punjab, Pakistan, ruled that a 14-year-old Christian girl abducted at gunpoint by an adult Muslim man and forced into converting to Islam and marrying him should stay married to him. The ruling amounted to stabbing justice to death in broad daylight. But what also proved dead in this story was the claim of major news outlets to professional journalism.
The case of 14-year-old Christian girl Maira Shahbaz’s abduction, forced conversion of faith, and marriage made news in April this year amidst the COVID 19 lockdown. The mainstream media predominantly went easy on the story. But Christian news sources, like The Christian Post, kept track of the case. The abductor, Mohamad Nakash, who had reportedly taken Maira from her home at gunpoint with the help of two other Muslim men, was already married and was caught presenting a fake document to the court when Maira’s family filed a case against him.
A lower court hearing the case ruled somewhat in favor of Maira around end of July as The Christian Post reported on August 1st that the court ruled for Maira to leave her captor’s house and be placed in a woman’s shelter. That ruling was also unjust to the young victim of rape imposed on her in the form of forced marriage. The girl needed to be placed with her family that has been struggling for her freedom through the court of justice.
However what happened on Tuesday, August 4th, at the Lahore High Court (LHC) put the lower court’s ruling to shame. The LHC ruled that Maira Shahbaz converted to Islam willingly and married Mohamad Nakash. The Telegraph reported on the ruling and wrote that the ruling sparked an outrage. The story also includes a statement from the victim’s attorney, which indicates that the court was probably intimidated during the hearing into ruling in favor of the defendant, the alleged abductor.
The victim’s lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, claimed 150 of Mr Nakash’s associates arrived at the court.
Keeping dozens of goons and using them to intimidate authorities is not news for those who are familiar with the state of affairs in Pakistan. What does strike as unbelievably outrageous is the deafening silence of the mainstream media in Pakistan and abroad. Neither any major Pakistani paper seems to have reported on this case nor did any mainstream international news source have reported on it. Aside from the story in The Telegraph, there are no news links in search engines leading to the story on any major media site. It sounds highly unlikely that Pakistani papers or news channels didn’t know of the incident. And once it appeared on the Yahoo News, one would expect those popular media outlets to report on the story-the publications and channels that keep beating the drum of child rights, human rights, and protection of minorities.
Are the media ignorant of the cruel abduction and rape of Maira Shahbaz allowed to continue by one of the highest courts in the country? Or is it politically incorrect for Pakistani and international news sources to stand up for a Christian child who has fallen prey to a Muslim aggressor? In either case, the murder of justice has gone hand in hand with the slaughter of journalism and aside from the handful of voices speaking for Maira Shahbaz, it’s all dark and bleak on the screen.