By Jibran Khan
Sara was raped by four men in a Muslim village in Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan. The little girl is hospitalized in a "critical condition". The rapists kidnapped her father, Iqbal Masih, forcing the family to not press charges. Activists and human rights organizations demand justice.
Islamabad (AsiaNews ) - A "clan" of four Muslim men raped a Christian girl of only seven years old, named Sara yesterday in the village of Mally ki, Daska, Sialkot district (Punjab) . The child is now in Sialkot hospital, in the intensive care unit in a "critical" condition according to doctors. Meanwhile, the police, instead of arresting the culprits, helped the local clan to kidnap the girl's father; Iqbal Masih was taken and hidden in a secret place to "force the family not to report the story, to reach an agreement with the criminals and to avoid a dispute of a religious background".
The Christian community has attempted every possible means to negotiate with police, with no success. The police seem reluctant to punish the rapists and free Masih, in the hands of the torturers who abused daughter.
Activists and human rights organizations demand justice and ensure their support for the family. Following repeated appeals and pressures, the judiciary has opened an investigation and ordered the arrest of two people involved in the rape; however so far there is no news of her father's fate.
According to recent research, the cases of sexual abuse and violence - especially against young Christian girls - are on the rise in the province of Punjab, under the complicit silence of the police and the judicial authorities. Father John Arshad, a priest involved in the protection of minority rights, condemns the sexual assault on a girl of only seven years and the kidnapping of the parent, "to put pressure on the family not to report the crime". The "silence" of civil society, he adds, heightens the drama of the story even more.
With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent). Violence against ethnic and religious minorities is commonplace across the country, with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main target, with things getting worse. Dozens episodes , including targeted attacks against entire communities - such as in Gojra in 2009 or Joseph Colony Lahore last year - or abuses against individuals (Asia Bibi , Rimsha Masih or the young Robert Fanish Masih, who also died in his cell), are often perpetrated under the pretext of the blasphemy laws .