A seven-year-old Pakistani girl and her family have been given asylum in Canada after reports the child was raped and left to die when her Christian father refused to convert to Islam.
The identities of Baby Neeha and her family are being protected by immigration officials, said human rights lawyer Chantal Desloges and One Free World International, a church that was instrumental in getting the family here.
The family arrived in Canada on Dec. 12 after a three-year battle by organizers to spirit them out of danger in Pakistan.
They are living in the Mississauga area and will be visited next month by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who was so touched by the family's plight that he doled out a ministerial permit, of which he has only issued two.
Church founder Rev. Majed El Shafie said the family of seven have been hiding from extremists in Pakistan for about three years.
Baby Neeha, at the age of 21/2, was raped by the son of her father's employer and left to die by the roadside, he said. No one was arrested for the crime.
"These horrific events took place because her father, who was Christian, refused to give in to pressure from his Muslim employer to convert to Islam," El Shafie said.
The family went underground in Pakistan to hide from Muslim extremists who were seeking revenge for their non-conversion, he said.
"The family has lived for years in hiding and in constant fear of being discovered by the employer's family or Islamic extremists," El Shafie said. "We are thrilled that she's finally in Canada."
Organizers said the case touched Kenney who decided to help the family.
"This case truly broke his heart and he (Kenney) considers himself lucky to have it within his powers to intervene," Kenney's spokesman Alykhan Velshi said yesterday. "Fortunately, they are now safely in Canada."
Kenney found out about the family's plight six months ago, Velshi said.
"He personally issued a special ministerial permit," he said. "There were significant difficulties in getting them out of Pakistan."
The family can now apply for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, Velshi said.
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