Sana, 23, and Chand Masih, 25, eloped from their houses in Gadowal village on September 21, and went to an undisclosed location. The girl’s family searched for her for two days before a local cleric decided to intervene, and turn the heat on the entire Christian community.
Local clerics, under the leadership of Maulana Amjad Farooqi, reached the girl’s residence and convinced her father to take a firm stand against the Christians who, Farooqi claimed, had “pre-planned” the event.
Following that, a large number of people gathered in the village, called out the Christians of the locality, and warned them to bring back the eloped couple or else their houses would be burnt down.
The Christians fled the village and the locals locked their houses behind them. The area’s Muslim population also took the cattle of the family of Chand Masih into their custody.
After two days, they traced a few members of the fleeing Christian community and asked them to bring back the eloped couple. When the families expressed their inability to trace the couple due to lack of finances, the Muslims sold a cow of the accused boy’s family and gave the family money to trace the couple.
Maulana Farooqi confirmed that a cow had been sold to trace the couple.
He said he openly warned the Christians that they have already “hurt their [Muslims’] sentiments by releasing the blasphemous movie [The Innocence of Muslims] and now with this step, they have added fuel to the fire.”
Farooqi said in case they do not bring back the girl, “it would take 10 minutes to teach a lesson to the Christians” of the locality.
He said they had arrested one man, who was purportedly in contact with the accused, but the police released him. He added that the girl’s father is bound not to take any step without the clerics’ consent.
The incident took place in Gadowal village, where only 15 Christian families are residing, but some families of adjoining villages have also fled after the threats, said Irfan Gill, a member of the Christian community.
He said the Christians of the locality went to the influential Muslims in the area once, and apologized in return for their safety, but the Muslims were firm that they want the accused boy.
The accused boy, Chand Masih, has sent a court order and certificate of his conversion to Islam to the police station, said Raiyya police chief Amanat Ali.
The court order says the girl married of her own choosing, and no one had kidnapped or compelled her to do so, he added.
Ali said the girl’s family was initially not keen on registering an FIR, but one was lodged nonetheless against three Christians. The girl administered intoxicants to her family through food at night and eloped with the boy, he added.
Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan chief Aslam Parvez Sahotra condemned the incident and termed it “a tool for victimization of Christians”.
The Christian community held protests alongside Muslim against the sacrilegious film but is still held responsible for the act of a single individual, he said.
Law-enforcement agencies must protect the minorities from communal punishments, he added.