In the quiet village of Javaid Nagar, Pattoki, a heartbreaking incident unfolded on Christmas Eve that left a family shattered. Aqsa Riaz, a 17-year-old Christian girl with epilepsy, went missing from her home while her father and siblings attended a local church service. Aqsa, staying behind to care for her sick mother, seemingly vanished without a trace.
Aqsa’s mother, Asiya Bibi, discovered her daughter’s absence around 11:30 pm when a cousin arrived home and revealed that Aqsa was nowhere to be found. As panic set in, Asiya desperately searched the nearby streets, calling out her daughter’s name in anguish. Despite her efforts, Aqsa remained elusive, prompting the distraught mother to seek help from church members.
Sharing her heart-wrenching experience, Asiya Bibi recounted, “I hastily emerged from my bed, scanning both our bathroom and living room. My heart seemed to tighten in my chest. Frantically, I rushed into the streets, fervently searching for her in the nearby vicinity. Tears streamed down my face as I called out her name loudly, but she was nowhere to be found.”
Aqsa’s father, Riaz Masih, and other relatives joined the search, scouring nearby crop fields in a desperate attempt to locate the missing teenager. The joyous occasion of Christmas turned into a somber episode of loss for the family. The police, however, proved unresponsive initially, refusing to register a First Information Report (FIR) without Aqsa’s birth certificate for age verification. With sheer nonchalance and unprofessionalism, they instructed Mr Masih to undertake the search for his daughter on his own.
“People were celebrating Christmas but there was a sad atmosphere in our home. We spent the whole day tirelessly searching for our daughter,” lamented Riaz Masih.
Finally, on December 26th, an FIR was registered at Saddar Police Station Pattoki after Riaz Masih provided Aqsa’s birth certificate. Despite this, the police’s delayed response likely contributed to the tragic outcome.
For more than a week, the grief-stricken parents spared no effort in their quest to locate their missing daughter. Riaz Masih shared with BACA, “For an entire week, we tirelessly endeavored to find Aqsa. I did everything within my means.” “I created missing posters for my daughter and distributed them at prominent bus stops. I even dispatched some of my relatives to Lahore.”
The agonizing search came to a devastating end on December 31st, when a Christian woman discovered Aqsa’s lifeless body in a field near the village while she was feeding her cattle. She promptly informed Riaz Masih, who hurried to the site. Overwhelmed with grief, he described the harrowing experience with tears in his eyes, “I couldn’t fathom that my little princess lay in such a dreadful condition. The bottom half of her body was submerged in the irrigation water in the farm, while the rest of her body lay along the bypath.” “I cried out in anguish. We promptly took her home and notified the police.”
The taking of Aqsa’s body home, sparked criticism from the police for interfering with their investigation. Despite the rebuke, Riaz Masih explained that he couldn’t bear to leave his daughter in such a distressing state.
Aqsa’s postmortem was conducted at District Headquarters Hospital Pattoki, but the cause of her death remains uncertain. The police are awaiting the postmortem report, leaving the family in limbo as they grapple with the unanswered questions surrounding Aqsa’s tragic fate.
Riaz Masih, a hardworking man supporting a large family of nine children, including three epileptic daughters, now faces the daunting task of understanding how Aqsa disappeared and met such a tragic end. As the community mourns the loss of a young life, the investigation into Aqsa Riaz’s death continues, leaving the village haunted by the unresolved mystery.
The British Asian Christian Association has graciously covered the funeral expenses for Aqsa, alleviating the financial burden on the grieving parents during this difficult time. In the event that evidence of foul play emerges, we remain committed to assisting the family by offering support towards the costs of legal representation.
At present, we encourage our supporters to contribute to our Pakistan fund (here). This fund enables us to promptly respond to incidents similar to Aqsa’s case and extends aid to persecuted Christians in Pakistan who are facing various challenges. Your donations play a crucial role in our mission to provide assistance, support, and relief to those in need within the Christian community in Pakistan.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, remarked, “The tragic disappearance and untimely demise of Aqsa Riaz serve as a poignant and devastating reminder of the vulnerabilities faced by marginalized communities. The circumstances surrounding her death remain shrouded in mystery, and we eagerly await more detailed information from the family once the police conclude their investigation and access the post-mortem examination.
Our profound disappointment extends to the local police’s failure to initiate a search for the child while awaiting proof of her age. It is truly disheartening that in the 21st century, a professional police service would exhibit such negligence. We intend to address this issue by writing to the High Commissioner for Pakistan, expressing our concerns about the lack of empathy and apparent indifference displayed in this distressing situation.”