Christians in district Narowal

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A young female student of Saint Paul High School in Narowal was picked up by six men and allegedly gang raped for three days. Proof of the local police’s complicity in defending the dignity of the accused rather than the victim was evident

I write this opinion piece with a great tautness of mind. Will the citizens ever be able to witness Jinnah’s Pakistan? A Pakistan that is free from caste, colour and creed discriminations, and where all citizens are equal and no one is above the law? To comprehend the socially challenged incident I witnessed in district Narowal a few weeks ago, it is imperative to understand past gruesome incidents that I have managed to research and dig out in the Sialkot region.

 

I interpret the story of my beautiful capital city located in the northeast of Punjab. Sialkot is the city I belong to and have served it as a carpenter for numerous years in my life. It serves me as an honour to have been born there as it is the third richest city of Pakistan when it comes to resources and GDP per capita. It is also Pakistan’s 12th most populous city. However, rule of law in the city is horrific and has deteriorated over the past decade.

 

In the past few years, there have been numerous incidents, especially in Narowal, which have left locals in the area astounded. These incidents have lacked a voice and recognition. I would like to mention a few because such cases pose a major threat to this country. Christian citizens staged a peaceful agitation demonstration at Sialkot city’s congested Allama Iqbal Chowk a few years ago. Even the rainy weather could not stop them from showing their grief. This protest was against the brutal murder of Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, who was gunned down in Islamabad.

 

Sometime later, the Christians community observed a complete strike in District Sialkot against the burning of houses belonging to the Christian community by a mob in Badami Bagh, Lahore. They took out rallies and staged the sit-ins in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial, Uggoki, Pasrur, Badiana, Chawinda and the surrounding areas to lodge their strong protest against the brutal incident of setting ablaze as many as 200 Christian houses in Lahore.

 

I now wish to bring the readers’ attention to district Narowal where rule of law has worsened at a rapid pace. In this district there is dire need for justice amongst citizens. A voice to such issues will come in handy for the abandoned and needy. Christian women have gone though abhorrent circumstances in Pakistan. These incidents reflect lack of moral value and character especially in the rural areas over the past few years. The gang rape incident of a Christian girl in Narowal this year just goes to show the police’s laxity — or more appropriately their leniency — in letting go of the alleged criminals. A young female student of Saint Paul High School in Narowal was picked up by six men and allegedly gang raped for three days. Proof of the local police’s complicity in defending the dignity of the accused rather than the victim was evident in the pressure tactics being used against the girl’s family. They initially refused to file an FIR and continued to force the Christians girl’s family to negotiate with the perpetrators, who happened to be local influentials. The six men involved in the gang rape got bail before arrest, forcing the aggrieved family to stage a sit-in, in early May, in front of parliament in Islamabad. Such negligence in enforcing the rule of law is indeed encouraging for the continuation of archaic practices.

 

Numerous Christian families have fled their homes in the latest spasms of religious strife. A few hundred Christians have camped in a forest in the Pakistani capital, cut down trees and are using the branches to build a church. Their tribulations began when a Christian girl in their poor Islamabad neighbourhood was accused by a neighbour of burning pages from the Quran, blasphemy under Pakistani law that can mean life in prison — or worse.

 

I plead to bring the attention of high police security enforcement authorities towards the most current incident that has taken place in a village in district Narowal. I believe due to the incompetence and lack of investigative training of the local police force this case has gone unnoticed. I state my opinion with such surety and confidence because I was present there in the village. Two individuals, who have powerful connections and influence in the area, continue to pin false allegations against the Christian community in the area and make their life more miserable than it already is.

 

It is imperative to comprehend that the Christian community of the area is very poor and, like other areas, most of their females are labourers who are trying to make ends meet. When these labourers want to explore better salary opportunities, owners tend to threaten them as did these two ‘gentlemen’. The aim behind this was the typical mindset of retaining Christian human resource. When the Christian citizens refused to agree to the terms put forth by these men, they used their connections in the police and filed a report against them. The report stated that the females are running a brothel in the area and that there was dire need for the local police to take action against them.

 

False allegations were made and the police, without following the very basic standard operating procedures of investigation, raided and arrested a few Christian men linked to these females. Some of the Christian women were humiliated and beaten up in the neighbourhood. I, as a volunteer human rights’ activist, plead that the provincial Chief Minister (CM) take notice of this case closely so that justice may prevail. I also urge the police officials to take action against such atrocities against the Christian community. A majority of citizens believe that Christians are our own brothers and sisters and due to some black sheep in the country who only care about their own needs, we have to face such shame.

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