Christian Girl Raped in Pakistan Kept from Medical Care for Two Days
Muslim relatives of suspect issue threats, hold father hostage.
May 2, 2014
By Our Pakistan Correspondent
Morning Star News
Threats by the Muslim family of a villager in Punjab Province who raped a 7-year-old Christian girl prevented her from receiving hospital care for two days, sources said.
Targeted under the assumption of impunity for Muslims who attack Christians, the young daughter of a farmhand in Malhe Ki village in the Daska area had gone out on Easter Sunday (April 20) to a neighborhood shop when Fakhar-e-Alam Nagra, known as Phool, and another man attacked her from behind, relatives of the girl said. The two men blindfolded her and took her to an abandoned outhouse, where Phool raped her, according to the relatives.
The girl’s brothers, Shahbaz and Emmanuel Masih, set out to search for their sister, whose name is withheld, when she did not return home that afternoon, according to the First Information Report (FIR No. 152/14) filed on April 22 at Daska Saddar Police Station.
“We were passing near Akhtar Ali Nagra’s property when we heard screams. We rushed inside and saw Phool scaling the back wall,” Shahbaz Masih said in the FIR. “She was on the ground, wailing in pain and bleeding profusely. We lifted her in our arms and ran home. Our sister suffered from trauma and immense pain for two days at home because the Nagra family was forcing us to reach a compromise with them.”
Nasreen Joyce, the victim’s paternal aunt, told Morning Star News that the girl’s father, Iqbal Masih, looked after the cattle of Zulfiqar Nagra, an uncle of the primary suspect.
“When the family saw her condition, her father Iqbal went to see Zulfiqar Nagra,” she said. “He told him how Phool had assaulted the child and he should provide justice to him. But rather than helping my poor brother, the landlord gave him 1,000 rupees [US$10] and told him to buy painkillers for her. He also warned him not to approach the police or go to the hospital, threatening that if the family disobeyed his order, they would regret the consequences.”
Joyce said that when her brother insisted, Zulfiqar Nagra refused to let him go and made him a hostage.
“In the meantime, my nephews telephoned me and told me about the tragic incident,” she said. “I reached their village the next day, only to find that she had not been given any medical treatment, and her condition was worsening because of excessive blood loss, while my brother Iqbal had still not returned home.”
Joyce said that the family did not know who to call for help, as there are just eight Christian families in the village, all of them low-wage earners.
“Zulfiqar Nagra and his cousin, Ahmed Yar Nagra, kept forcing Iqbal to sign a compromise with them, telling him that this was the only way he would be able to leave their house without being harmed,” she said. “I thank the Lord for guiding us through the seemingly hopeless situation. Someone gave us the cell number of a Christian rights activist and we decided to inform the police.”
On April 22, the family gathered courage to meet the district police chief, Gohar Nafees, who ordered area officers to recover Iqbal Masih and investigate.
“On his order, Sub-Inspector Muhammad Arif registered a case against Phool and took him into custody,” she said. “The police also managed to recover Iqbal from Zulfiqar’s house but failed to arrest any of the abductors.”
Joyce said that the girl was kept in the intensive care unit for six days as doctors tried to stop internal hemorrhage.
“The police say they are conducting raids to arrest Zulfiqar and Ahmed Yar, but we know the police are now hesitating from holding them accountable for their crimes,” she said.
Denying that police were reluctant to arrest the alleged abductors, Sub-Inspector Arif told Morning Star News that a medical examination confirmed that the child had been raped.
“Phool had initially told us that he was accompanied by another boy, but then he confessed to raping her alone,” said Arif, adding that the child had also recorded her statement against him. Moreover, DNA swabs taken from the girl make it an open-and-shut case, he said.
The police official said that Zulfiqar and Yar would soon be in police custody. Police official Gohar Nafees reiterated resolve to ensure punishment.
“No one should think that they can force their will over poor and weak sections of Pakistani society,” Nafees said. “It’s regrettable that she could not get proper medical attention soon after the incident, but I assure that the police will definitely push for the maximum possible punishment for the rapist.”
Aneeqa Maria, who as head of The Voice Society helped the family obtain police, medical and legal help, told Morning Star News that the girl was a “soft target” because the rapist assumed that her family as Christians would not be able to stand up to Muslims.
“There is surely an element of persecution in this particular case,” she said. “Everyone knows how Christians are treated by Muslims in Pakistan, especially in rural areas. Most cases of blasphemy reported in Punjab are from rural areas, where a majority of Christians are illiterate and are often subjected to persecution and discrimination by the majority Muslims.”
Rights activist Napolean Qayyum voiced similar concerns, saying rapes and forced conversions of Christian girls in Punjab come about mainly because of impunity Muslims enjoy in the province.
“The accused belongs to the Nagra clan of the influential Jatt caste,” he said. “Both the members of the Punjab and National Assembly from the area are from the PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] and are very close to the Nagra clan. If her family had not pulled up courage to go public with their ordeal, there is a possibility that the Nagras would have abducted the little girl and forcibly married her to the accused after converting her to Islam. This is how most Christian girls are converted forcibly.”
Qayyum said the country’s top Islamic body, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), had recently ruled that child marriages were in accordance with Islam. In its meeting in March this year, the CII ruled that, “Pakistani laws related to marriage were unfair, and there cannot be any age of marriage,” he said.
Council Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani ruled that minor children can have Nikah(marriage), but that their Ruksati (formal handing to the groom) could be executed only after attaining the age of puberty, he said.
“This is something that all Christian rights groups need to prepare for in future,” Qayyum said.
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