Returning home from a night shift at a call center on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on Feb. 25, Naveed Iqbal learned from his sons that a local criminal and three other men had taken his wife away, he said.
The Pakistani Christian mother of three was abducted, tortured and forced to convert to Islam by a Muslim man who then forced her to marry him, according to local news sources.
Saima Iqbal, who was already married to a Christian man, tearfully described in a Facebook video how she was snatched from her home on the evening of 25 February.
Naveed Iqbal, the husband of Mrs Iqbal told International Minorities Concern, a UK based advocacy group for minority rights, that his wife was abducted from their home in New Iqbal Town in Islamabad by Muhammad Khalid Sati between 9:00-9:30 in the evening on the 25th of February.
Mr Iqbal who works in a local call centre said: “I was shocked to find out that my wife was missing after I came back from the night shift on the 26th of February. I made a complaint in the local police station on the 26th of February against the kidnapping of my wife.
Officers told him to forget about his wife and stop pursuing the case, he said.
Informing him that his 35-year-old wife had married a Muslim, police said she had converted to Islam on Feb. 26, and that a local Muslim cleric had solemnized her marriage to Satti, Iqbal said.
“The police did not take immediate action in respect of my application. They lodged a police First Information Report (FIR) on the 1st of March only after I threatened to commit self-immolation”, said Mr Iqbal.
“I refused to believe their story and pleaded with Superintendent of Police Umer Khan to recover my wife,” he said. “On Khan’s order, Investigation Officer [IO] Syed Asif raided Satti’s Dera (outhouse) and recovered Saima from his custody the same day. Satti was arrested and taken into custody.”
He stated: “The accused was arrested on the 5th of March. The police recovered my wife from him on the same day”.
“On March 5, police informed me that Saima had been found but that she had converted to Islam and married Satti,” Iqbal told Morning Star News.
“The next morning, the IO went to take her to the deputy commissioner’s office to record her statement, but to her horror, Satti was also present in the vehicle,” Iqbal said. “During the journey, the accused and the IO both threatened Saima to say that she had converted to Islam and married Satti of her free will, otherwise her family would suffer severe consequences. Fearing for our lives, Saima said what she had been forced to say, resulting in grant of bail to Satti.”
After her release from the shelter the next day, Iqbal said, his wife told him how she had been abducted, raped, tortured and forced to sign the marriage certificate by Satti and his accomplices.
“She also showed me the torture marks on her body, and how she had been coerced into submitting to the demands of her tormentor,” he told Morning Star News.
After hearing of her ordeal, Iqbal decided to do everything possible to obtain justice. Following his wife’s release, he uploaded a video on Facebook in which the shaken, tearful Saima Iqbal described the crime and appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan for justice, Iqbal said.
Married for 15 years, Saima Iqbal had lived with her husband and their three sons, ages 4 to 14, in the Iqbal area outside Islamabad since 2004, he said.
Pakistan ranks fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Non-Muslim girls and women in Pakistan are very vulnerable to kidnap, forced conversion and marriage to Muslims, and authorities rarely intervene. A report compiled by a Pakistani NGO in 2014 estimated that every year at least 700 Christian and 300 Hindu girls and young women in Pakistan suffer this kind of abuse.