A Catholic charity is launching a campaign calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to grant UK asylum to a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan receiving death threats from a rapist who forced her to marry him and abandon her faith.
Maira Shahbaz, a Catholic from the Punjab Province, is in hiding, having escaped from Mohamad Nakash Tariq, who kidnapped her at gunpoint during coronavirus lockdown, gang-raped her, blackmailed her and forced her to convert to Islam.
Four months later, Maira ran away from his house and, in response, Mr Nakash made death threats, accusing her apostasy.
Reporting that “suspicious” people were trying to track down Maira and her family, her lawyer, Sumera Shafique, stated: “Extremists in Pakistan consider her an apostate and will kill her at the first chance.”
Now, in the run-up to #RedWednesday, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)’s campaign against religious persecution, the charity is launching a petition asking Mr Johnson to grant asylum to Maira and her family.
ACN UK National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith said: “It is urgent that the Prime Minister acts to save the lives of Maira and her family. They are in grave danger. We have a duty of conscience to act.”
The Lahore High Court has ordered 24-hour police protection for the family but neighbours have warned that individuals are going from house to house, trying to hunt down the family.
Miss Shafique said: “We call on the UK Government to grant Maira asylum so that she can rebuild her life, free from the ever-present threat of death.”
Maira is still recovering from her experience of abduction, saying Mr Nakash blackmailed her by threatening to release online a video of her being gang-raped.
Mr Nakash produced a document which he claimed was a marriage certificate showing he had married her a year ago when she was still only 13.
When the family tried to win Maira back, Lahore High Court ruled in Mr Nakash’s favour, saying her so-called conversion to Islam trumped all other concerns.
Barely two weeks later, Maira escaped and went straight to the police and gave a statement detailing sex crimes by Mr Nakash.
As a charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, ACN provides legal and paralegal aid for Christians unjustly imprisoned in Pakistan.