The vulnerability of Christian girls to sexual assault in Pakistani society emerged again last month as a Muslim landowner allegedly targeted a 16-year-old and a gang of madrassa (Islamic school) students allegedly abused a 12-year-old in Punjab Province.
In Farooqabad, Shiekhupura district, three Muslim co-workers of a Christian man allegedly raped his 16-year-old daughter at gunpoint the night of July 21; the following evening in Gujar Khan, Rawalpindi district, more than a half dozen madrassa students decided to “teach these Christians a lesson” by allegedly gang-raping the 12-year-old girl.
The students at Jamia Islamia Madrassa had been harassing Christians in the villages around Gujar Khan, said the pastor of the church to which the girl’s family belongs, United Pentecostal Church.
“They openly announce that ‘the Christians are our enemies, we should not talk to them, eat with them or do business with them,’” Pastor Shakeel Javed told Compass.
The students often beat Christian children who come to play on the school grounds, telling them to convert or leave, he said, adding that on Sundays they throw stones at the church building.
A school teacher who said she was witness to the alleged rape told Compass that when she came across the madrassa students the evening of July 22, she overheard one saying, “We will teach these Christians a lesson they will never forget.”
“Three or four Christian girls were washing dishes near a pond,” Rana Aftab said. “These guys ran towards them, and the girls started running. One of them fell on the ground, and these madrassa students got hold of her and took her in the fields. I tried to stop them, but they were 15-16 in number.”
Seven or eight of them raped the girl, whose name is withheld, while the others looked on, Aftab said.
“She kept yelling for help, but no one heard her cries,” Aftab said.
They left the girl in the field, and some villages took her home to her father, Pervaiz Masih, Aftab said.
Masih was devastated, and the girl’s mother fainted when she saw her, Masih told Compass.
Masih and Aftab went to the police station to register a complaint, but the officer in charge refused to register it, Aftab said.
When Compass contacted officers at the police station, they initially refused to comment, but eventually one admitted that they are under pressure from Muslims leaders and extremists to refrain from filing a First Information Report (FIR) on the alleged crime.
In eastern Punjab Province’s Farooqabad, the Christian father of the allegedly raped 16-year-old girl said he was later kidnapped and tortured.
In his complaint to police, Ghafoor Masih of Kot Sandha village said he was working the fields when three men who work for his Muslim employer overpowered his daughter at home and dragged her into one of the rooms of the house at gunpoint.
His daughter, whose name is withheld, told police that the three men raped her while keeping her from screaming for help by threatening to shoot her in the forehead with a pistol. The family accused Rashid Ali, another Muslim identified only as Maan son of Muhammad Boota and an unidentified man who also worked for Masih’s employer, Hajji Rashid Jutt.
The next morning, July 22, Masih went to the Saddr police station in Farooqabad, but Station House Officer Inspector Nasseer Ahmad Khan refused to register a First Information Report (FIR), labor leaders said. Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, chairman of the Bonded Labor Front, and Zia-ud-Din Khokhar, chairman of Equality for Minorities, later approached the Shiekhupura district police officer with Masih’s complaint, and on July 28 the official sent an application for a FIR to Saddr Police Station.
Under pressure from the superior officer, on July 29 Inspector Khan registered the FIR under for “gang-rape at gunpoint,” family members and clergy said.
As Masih made his way home after the filing of the FIR on July 29, however, two other Muslims who work for his employer, Jutt, allegedly intercepted and kidnapped him, the family members said, and took him to Jutt’s farmhouse. There Jutt, the two men – Muhammad Irfan and Muhammad Usman – and another worker for Jutt, Fazal Karim, allegedly shackled and tortured Masih, leaving him in critical condition.
Inspector Khan told Compass that he has arrested Jutt, Irfan and Usman for kidnapping, as well as the suspect identified only as Maan for the alleged rape of Masih’s daughter.
Joseph Francis, national director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, condemned the alleged rape of the 16-year-old girl.
“Muslim landowners and their relatives see Christian girls or women as their chattel,” Francis said. “Such vicious incidents are not being stopped by the government, and day by day the rate of rapes of Christian girls is escalating instead of plunging.”
Sahotra and Khokhar added that many such cases go unreported as impoverished Christian families often do not have the resources to pursue justice.
John Little and Walter Smith, Compass Direct