Christian women beaten and raped by police officers and ‘Muslim hardliners’ in Pakistan

On February 9, 2013, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Christian relief workers rushed to help some Christian women, whom, it was reported had been abused by security forces and Muslim hardliners. One of the women had been allegedly raped.

Kaila Masih’s house was raided by some Muslims and some undercover police officers. Apparently they “beat and tortured Christian women Zareena Bibi,Hameedan Bibi and Sharifan Bibi,” said the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), an advocacy and aid group.

According to LEAD investigators it was the second such incident in Punjab’s Kasur District within about two weeks. On January 25, 2013, Fouzia Bibi, 15, who comes from a very poor family, and works as a farm laborer with her father, was raped and beaten.

She was sent on an errand by her employers. On the way back, two Muslims, Sher Muhammad and Shabir Ali, armed with pistols, kidnapped and, imprisoned her in a room, then raped and tortured her repeatedly. After the incident, the girl was then left unconscious in the street. She managed to return home and her family went to the police station to file a complaint.

After the police’s refused to listen to what had happened, Fouzia’s father, Malooka Masih, turned to Rev Saleem Gill of the Anglican Church of Pakistan and Catholic Bishop Irfan Jamil, who sought proper legal assistance.

Four days later, with the help of LEAD, a First Information Report was presented against the rapists. Her father said that the perpetrators also threatened her family to stop them from making an official complaint. Fouzia’s family is now “terrified and under threat”.

Gill said he met a local pastor and victims and helped to register a criminal case against the alleged attackers of the women, including “police officials and other Muslims.”

LEAD, because of pressure from influential Muslims in the area, demands that the rape case be moved to more independent police in Pattoki.

Though police “arrested” one suspect, “he was not yet sent to jail”, complained LEAD investigators.

Another alleged rapist “is free and making threats to Christians of the area,” LEAD said, adding that both men should be jailed.

According to local Church groups, Christians have been targeted in several areas of Pakistan in attacks fueled by Islamic extremism.

LEAD said however that it would continue to work “with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice”.

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