LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday (Jan. 4) recovered the bodies of two Christian sisters whose Muslim supervisors pressured them to convert to Islam before killing them, sources said.
Mushtaq Masih said that police informed him on Jan. 4 that officers had found the decomposed bodies of his 28-year-old wife, Sajida Mushtaq, and her sister, Abida Qaiser, bound and bundled into sacks in an area drainage ditch. Sajida Mushtaq, a mother of four, and Qaiser had been missing since Nov. 26.
“My wife often complained of harassment by her supervisors, but she used to tell me that she was handling the situation well,” Masih told Morning Star News. “After she went missing, one of my relatives shared with us that Sajida had confided in her that her supervisors, Muhammad Mumtaz and Naeem Butt, used to pressure her and Abida to convert to Islam and marry them.”
A Catholic sanitation worker at a local business center, Masih said that his wife and sister-in-law had begun working at a pharmaceutical factory more than two years ago. The sisters had gone shopping the evening of Nov. 26, and when they did not return home, Masih and other relatives registered a First Information Report at the Kahna Nau police station after searching for them, he said.
The investigating officer of the case, Iftikhar Hussain, said that officers took Mumtaz and Butt into custody after relatives of the sisters informed them that Mumtaz used to pressure the two women to marry him, and that the two suspects had confessed to killing them.
“During interrogation, Naeem confessed that they had abducted the sisters, and after keeping them hostage for a few days for satisfying their lust, had slit their throats and thrown their bodies into the drain,” Hussain told Morning Star News.
Masih said that his family was shattered when police informed them about the recovery of the bodies, whose hands and feet were bound.
“I have three sons and a daughter – the eldest 11 years old, and the youngest 5 – while Abida has only one daughter, aged 9,” Masih told Morning Star News. “You can imagine the emotional and mental trauma our children and all other family members have been suffering since Sajida and Abida had gone missing. When police informed us that they had identified the two bodies as those of our loved ones, it seemed that our entire world had come crumbling down.”
Masih and other relatives were asked to confirm the identity of the badly decomposed bodies.
“I still cannot fathom the site of seeing my wife’s decomposed body,” he said.
Punjab Province Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Ejaz Alam Augustine said that he had visited the aggrieved families.
“No words are enough to condemn the barbarity meted out to the two innocent women,” he said, adding that he had directed police to ensure that the criminals and all who facilitated the crime are punished.
The minister said the increasing number of forced conversions of Christian women and girls in Punjab was a dangerous trend and that the government was forming legislation to criminalize them.
“We have sent a draft bill to the provincial law ministry for vetting. It will be introduced in the Punjab Assembly after evolving consensus of all political parties,” he said.
Augustine added that consensus on the legislation was necessary to ensure its unanimous approval, or else it would fail.
On Nov. 30 in Rawalpindi, two Muslims shot and killed 24-year-old Sonia Bibi in the neck after she refused to renounce her Christian faith and marry one of them. The victim’s mother told Morning Star News that the main suspect, identified only as Shahzad, had been terrorizing her daughter for five months.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.