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Lawyer Slams Violation of Pakistani Christians’ Personal Laws

Christian rape victim is yet to get justice

By Sheraz Khurram Khan

5/15/07 Pakistan (ANS) – A Pakistani Christian Lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, has said that some influential Muslims violate Christians’ personal laws by allegedly forcing Christian women to convert to Islam after kidnapping and raping them.

“Christian marriage is not a social contract but a sacrament, hence Christian marriage stands intact for life”, said Khalil Tahir Sandhu while talking to ANS by phone on Saturday, May 12.

He went on to say that even if a Christian woman has seven children but after forced conversion to Islam she loses her right to her religion as well as to her children. “This is blatant injustice with Christian women.”

When ANS asked an update on Catholic Christian Ribqa Masih’s case who was gang raped by some three suspects including Muhammad Kashif, Ghulam Abbas Hussain and an unidentified in September 2005 he said today, May 12 the Additional District and Sessions Judge Muhammad Saluhuddin adjourned the court till May 30.

He told ANS that Ribqa (22) had testified before the court that Ghulam Abbas Hussain and Muhammad Kashif drugged her on September 2nd and took her to Lahore, approximately 100 km from her home in chak (village) 86 J.B.

Khalil Tahir Sandhu said her captors raped and threatened to kill her and her family if she did not convert to Islam.

The Christian victim of gang rape however refused to convert to Islam, Sandhu informed ANS.

Ribqa was yet again raped by another unidentified accused who was supposed to take her home, he said.

Khalil said the Supreme Court granted bail to Ghulam Abbas Hussain, saying earlier the Lahore High Court had denied him bail. Hussain, he said was freed on bail after serving almost one and a half-year in jail.

“Ribqa’s family could not engage a lawyer due to their poor socio-economic situation. I wish I were a Supreme Court Lawyer.”

He maintained the other rape suspect Muhammad Kashif was granted bail by the Lahore High Court on medical grounds.

“Nobody wants to marry these girls, even though they are innocent,” said Khalil Tahir while implying to the social stigmatization they can never get rid of all their lives.

Ribqa’s Lawyer said she foiled her rapists’ designs of converting her to Islam by staying steadfast to her Christian faith.

He also made mention of a threat allegedly hurled at him while pleading Ribqa’s case.

“I am only worried about my wife and three sons. My son Arbab always asks me as to why the police come to ask about our safety.”

“I have a special request to make regarding Ribqa and her family. I want believers across the world to pray for them because the rape victim as well as her family is living in a grip of fear and insecurity. Ribqa’s mother, Parveen can neither speak nor walk. She is bed-ridden and the family does not have resources to pay for her treatment. If God moves someone’s heart to help them out I can provide the victim’s address to them for financial help”, said Khalil Tahir who took Ribqa Masih’s case pro bono.

To a question he said Ribqa’s father, Rafique Masih is a welder who he said earns Rs 150 (US$2.5) a day.

When ANS drew his attention toward two alleged Muslim rape victims including Mukhtaran Mai and Dr. Shazia whose cases received unprecedented media coverage and human rights organizations’ support, Tahir said he was unable to comprehend the “mysterious mystery of indifference” in the Christian rape victim’s case. Mukhtarian Mai he said had now established schools in her village but Ribqa was yet to get justice, he regretted.

To a question he said he thought the case would run for a couple of months. Asked what maximum sentence the accused could get Sandhu said they could get transportation for life.

When asked if the Adal Trust had plans to build Protection House for the victims of rape or other injustices the Executive Director of Adal Trust said he had plans to establish such a house under the name “Sab Ka Garh” (House for All). He said the Trust needed funds to the tune of Rs 50,00000 ($8,333 US dollars approximately) to materialize the project.