ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
Updated: August 28, 2013 10:27 PM GMT
Christians protest outside the Lahore Press Club
A Christian family forced to flee their village last year after a Muslim girl eloped with a Christian boy have set up a protest camp outside the Lahore Press Club to demand justice against their attackers who later seized their homes.
The girl, Muneeza, and her Christian lover Ansar Masih ran away from the village in Sargodha district in Punjab province last September without informing their families.
They ran fearing they would be killed and later married in court. The girl told the judge she was marrying the Christian man of her own free will. She has since converted to Christianity.
However, Muneeza’s enraged family attacked Ansar’s house and assaulted his family. The parents were ordered to appear before a village tribunal, where they were again beaten and told to produce the girl.
As a result, the whole family - comprising four separate households - had to flee the village in fear for their lives while their houses were occupied and belongings were sold.
Meanwhile, the couple remain in hiding due to threats from the girl's family.
On Thursday, dozens of Christian supporters led by the Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan (HLCP) protested at the Lahore Press Club, calling for the return of the family’s homes and the arrest of those who attacked them and stole their property.
The family says it will remain at the Press Club until justice is served.
Much of their anger was directed against the Sargodha police and district officials for failing to protect them and take action against their attackers.
“Our houses remain illegally occupied. Police are not cooperating with us at all,” said Nazir Masih, Ansar’s father.
“Ansar does not live with us anymore, nor do we know his whereabouts,” he said.
He urged the chief justice of Pakistan and Punjab officials to take notice and provide justice.
“Christian families including women were beaten and forced to leave their village while police stood by and watched,” HLCP chairman Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra said.
District officials say they are doing everything they can to resolve the dispute.
“We are trying to resolve this sensitive issue amicably by facilitating a compromise between the two families,” said Sargodha district official Ashiq Jatt on Thursday.
“We can give assurances that the girl will not be harmed if she returns to her village and meets her family,” he said.