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Battle for 12 years forced marriage victim continues in Islamabad family court as her rapist launches appeal

Islamabad: August 13, 2018. (PCP) Pakistani Christian girl who was returned to her parents by the courts earlier this year after she was abducted and forced into an Islamic marriage at the tender age of 12 years old now has yet another legal battle to face in the family court.

Despite her being too young to give consent to marry; a fact which was determined by her birth certificate, a court ordered a medical examination and witnesses along with the judge ruling that her forced conversion was invalid, the man who is facing criminal charges had made an appeal and is insisting that this child half his age consented to being taken from everyone she loved and then raped by a stranger.

Shockingly despite the marriage being clearly illegal as the law is currently written on the books it is uncertain whether a breaking of the abductor's supposed legal bonds to the victim or an annulment under Shariah has been secured in a formal manner after the prior ruling. The man and his lawyer continue to insist that it was "a legal marriage" and has prepared paperwork to argue this case. It is a great concern even though the last Judge found it to be invalid, because the previous lower court refused to listen to the pleas of Elisha's distraught parents and upheld the kidnap/rape as a valid marriage.

25 year-old rapist Sagheer Ismael kidnapped Elisha aged 12 years at the time, as she went on a shopping errand one day. Her distraught father Iqbal Masih left no stone unturned to find his young daughter hoping to bring her back to the family home. He canvased the neighbourhood until he heard where she was located, but when he approached the family who had spirited her away they were defensive and threatened him with lodging a blasphemy complaint against him. According to their view they were after all a fine Muslim family and his insistence that Elisha would not willing convert did not sit well with them. False blasphemy charges are a very real threat in these situations so as intimidating as this was Elisha’s father went to the authorities anyway. However, he received no assistance from local police when he attempted to lodge a FIR complaint against the sexual predator. Mr Iqbal was rather told by the authorities that he should consider Elisha fortunate to have married into such a good Muslim family.

Iqbal Masih had no money for the lawyer he needed to get his little girl back and so sold himself into servitude at a brick kiln obligation to pay the lawyer fees. After supporters of the British Pakistani Christian Association found out about this man’s determination to rescue his daughter funds were raised to pay the financial obligation over him.

In July things for Elisha and for her family again took a fearful turn making them further distressed about Elisha's security. Family Court judge in Islamabad, Riffat Mahmood ordered the family to bring Elisha before the court amid the hearing to take Elisha statement, something that brings recurring trauma to the the young girl. She will need to return again to court on September 19th to take the stand against her rapist.

The man who is out on bail after being charged with kidnapping and raping her has had his lawyer raise protests against Iqbal Masih's supplication via his lawyer Javai Shakar to evacuate that Elisha from her captures home and has filed falsified papers including a fake marriage certificate claiming she is 18 years of age.

Their position is that Elisha is a grown-up now and completely capable to take her own particular choices, and because of it, court has requested Mr Iqbal Masih exhibit Elisha before the court on 12th of July to take Elisha' statement with respect to her purported marriage and separation supplication.

At court on 12th of July, the rival attorney asked the Judge to offer requests to give Elisha to her alleged Muslim family and spouse. at which, Elisha began crying and said to the Judge: "I was compelled to do this marriage, truth be told, every one of my marks and thumbprints on ny paperwork is phony. Whilst I was in the hands of my captors I was forced to give my thumbprint on several documents, which I didn't know anything about nor could I read them"

That family court judge did not give any verdict and delayed the 12th July proceedings to 26th of July. On the 26th of July court date, two applications were submitted: one application was from the accused lawyer which requested the court must intervene in this case and give orders to give the custody of Elisha to his client; and the other application was from Elisha's attorney in which expressed that her and her family have security concerns from the rival party and require safety measures be taken to ensure Elisha and her family. The judge again reset a hearing date for the 19th of September 2018.

BPCA Lead Officer Mehwish Bhatti explained: "It it is unclear why there remains any question as to Elisha no longer being legally bound to her kidnapper-rapist's clan.

Her lawyer did argue well to get her to be sent back to her parents at this time and we are very grateful for Justice Siddique returning Elisha to her family in the meantime, but this uncertainty that remains about her future leaves worries about whether anyone but a Christian lawyer would truly understand the long-term danger she is in by these legal loose ends.

I have chosen to hire a Christian lawyer to continue to battle Elisha's case and we will need to begin our payments for these legal fees the second week in August in preparation for the September court date."

Wilson Chowdhry said: "A landmark decision was made when young Elisha was returned to her parents. The poor child has suffered huge ignominy and torture and still has much more to contend with as she sets about seeking her freedom and or justice for the rape ordeal she lived with for many months.

"Some of the small favour that began to emerge for Christians implicated in false cases under the previous Government may not be upheld under the new regime which has a stronger focus on Islamism. Though the court is meant to be independent of Government time and time again evidence emerges contrary to this.

"If Elisha is given back to the rapist and his family her life on this earth will be a torturous unforgiving one and we must all continue to pray and support this family as they go through a very menacing situation, due to the depravity of a lustful man with no sense of morality or remorse.

"Pakistan's moral compass is set very low when it comes to sharing the nations with the minorities in their midst, a social malaise that encompasses all tiers of society that is set to worsen if left unfettered."