Lahore, an 11-year-old Christian girl, Yarosha Masih, was allegedly subjected to forced marriage and religious conversion, under the guise of deceitful paperwork by her neighbour in Ferozewalla, a district in Sheikhupura, Punjab.

The controversy came to light when Saleem Masih, Yarosha’s father, was summoned to the Ferozewalla court on March 28, 2024, following an order from local police the day before. The police intervention was based on a complaint lodged by Imran Sarfaraz, a former neighbour, who falsely claimed to be the husband of the young girl and accused her father of illegally detaining her.

Upon arriving in court, Masih presented Yarosha’s birth certificate, which clearly stated her age as 11 years, countering the fraudulent marriage certificate provided by Sarfaraz, dated October 10, 2023. The court, after reviewing the documents, dismissed the illegal detention complaint and immediately ordered the registration of a case against Imran Sarfaraz, his mother, the marriage registrar, and the witnesses involved in the sham marriage.

The incident took a more disturbing turn when Yarosha disclosed to the media that Sarfaraz had deceived her into signing the marriage documents by claiming they were necessary for entry to a local amusement park, Lahore Sozo Water Park. This revelation has highlighted the manipulative tactics used to exploit minors.

Punjab’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Ramesh Singh Arora, has since intervened, demanding swift action against the perpetrators. Saleem Iqbal, a renowned journalist, is assisting the Masih family. Iqbal expressed frustration over the delayed arrest of Sarfaraz, emphasizing that legal actions will accelerate once he is in custody.

This case underscores the ongoing challenges faced by minority communities in Pakistan, particularly the vulnerability of children to forced conversions and marriages. The local Christian community and human rights organizations are calling for immediate and stringent measures to protect minority rights and ensure justice for Yarosha Masih and her family.