Pakistan Christians Report Rapes and Attacks Against Workers

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- Christian rights investigators have urged the Pakistani government to help end growing violence against the country's minority Christians, which include rape and attacks against workers, BosNewsLife monitored Monday, August 14.

The Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), which is active in Pakistan, said it has "started a new campaign after President Pervez Musharraf’s announcement to review the Hudood ordinance which was promulgated in 1979, during the regime of the late General Zia Ul Haq..."

Often the Hudood laws "adversely affect the most marginalized sections of Pakistan's society - women and minorities [as] under these legislation if coercion cannot be proved, the rape victim becomes an offender who has enjoyed illicit sexual activity," the advocacy group claimed.

CLAAS and other human rights organizations say rape is increasingly used by militants in Pakistan to pressure Christian women to accept the Muslim religion. "Often cases of Muslim women like Mukhtaran Mai, Dr. Shazia and Zafran Bibi gain international attention. But, the plights of un-known Christian girls like Sumaira, Asia, Asther, Riffat, Tahira Siraj, Nadia, Afsheen, Ribqa and many others are seldom heard," CLAAS told BosNewsLife.


"These women have been raped, tortured, forcibly married to those who abused them, and deprived of justice. This is mainly because the Christian community in Pakistan is too marginalized and poor to challenge the atrocities against their women and young girls," the group added.

In addition anti-Christian sentiments have been spreading towards the work floor, several investigators said. In a prayer alert US-based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) noted this month that near the eastern city of Lahore, a Muslim man ordered that a Christian worker be beaten for drinking water at a public facility.

Nasir Ashraf, who was working at a nearby school, stopped to get a drink and used a glass that was sitting on the water tank. "A Muslim man accosted the Christian mason accusing him of polluting the glass and then broke the glass. He then summoned a crowd to come and beat Nasir. The crowd complied, finally pushing him off of a cliff. Nasir survived the fall but it rendered him unconscious, broke his collar bone in two places and dislocated his shoulder," ICC reported.

Earlier this year three Christian sanitary workers were killed by poisonous gas as they were forced to enter sewage gutter with out any masks, safety belts, gas detectors, or special uniforms, CLAAS added.


"Parwaiz Jan, Adil and Guftar were summoned unofficially from another sub-division on May 18 2006. They went down the gutter and died from inhaling carbon monoxide gas. The emergency service 1122 was called but by the time they arrived the three workers had already died," the group said.

This is not the first time that sanitary workers have died because of deadly gas, investigators said. "These incidents happen frequently and because only Christians are assigned to menial jobs carried out without the necessary protection, they are casualties of a ruthless system," CLAAS noted.

Churches have also been targeted. ICC, with website, said that in the latest incident on August 3 a fertilizer company razed a Protestant church to the ground while leaving untouched a close-by mosque. The Pak-Arab fertilizer company reportedly said the Christian church was on company property and they demolished it "to allow the company to expand."

Some church observers have said the attacks against Christians increased during the US-led war on terror. Christianity is often seen as a "Western religion" and Christians are often seen as pro-American human rights analysts say. About 97 percent of Pakistan's nearly 166 million people are Muslims, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With reports from Pakistan).

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