ASIA/PAKISTAN - Violence against minorities: the case of three Christian women stripped naked and humiliated shakes the nation

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - An episode of violence against Christians has become a "political case" in Pakistan. Three Christian women were beaten, stripped naked and humiliated publicly in a village near Pattoki, in the district of Kasur in Punjab province. As reported to Fides, (see 10/6/2013) the act was a revenge on behalf of Muhammad Munir, the son of a Muslim landowner. They wanted to punish a few Christians farming families because their herds had trespassed in another persons land. After a month - the incident took place on June 3 - the case is creating a huge uproar among the public opinion of Pakistan, between Christians and Muslims, generating criticism towards the government of the "Pakistan Muslim League-N" (PML-N) , the governing party both in the province of Punjab and at a national level. In fact, Munir, the man who abused women, is the son of Abdul Rasheed, a well-known supporter of the PML-N. In addition, the parliamentary Rana Ishaq, a member of the National Assembly in the ranks of the PML-N, is publicly defending and helping Abdul Rasheed and his son.
Fides sources in Punjab note that "the victims have filed a complaint against the culprits, but no one has been arrested as they are very influential". In addition, Abdul Rasheed has also registered a "First Information Report" against Christians, as a form of pressure on the family, to induce them to withdraw the complaint.
In a statement sent to Fides, "the Asian Human Rights Commission" (AHRC), an organization for the defense of human rights, condemns the incident and calls on civil and judicial authorities to take action concerning this "inhuman case ".
Tahira Abdullah, a Muslim, a well-known activist, committed to the defense of religious minorities, explains to Fides: "It is a very serious episode. For our culture and tradition, it is the worst thing one can do to a woman. I myself would prefer to be killed rather than suffer such a humiliation".
The case of the three women is in the hands of the Christian lawyer Mushtaq Gill, director of organization "LEAD" ("Legal Evangelical Association Development"), who has offered legal assistance to the victims. Gill has informed Fides of having received intimidation and death threats from militants: on 23 June three armed men stopped and threatened him.
Joseph Francis, a Pakistani Christian, founder of the NGO "CLAAS" ("Center for Legal Aid and Assistance Settlement") told Fides: "It is very difficult for Christian families to obtain justice because they are poor and they are Christians." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 03/07/2013)