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Three rape victim Christian girls await police action

Lahore: January 17, 2018. (PCP) A 35-year-old Christian man has been protesting outside the Lahore Press Club office for the last 3 months calling for someone to take action against the rapist of his three daughters, he has made this stand because he says that police officers are refusing to pursue the case against the known rapist because of a bribe paid to them.

Khurram Shahzad Victor (35 yrs) works as a labourer for a football making factory in Sialkot. In 2012 he lost his wife Farzana Sharif who died at 29 years of age, after she had a serious heart attack which she did not survive. Before Farzana died she birthed 6 beautiful daughters named Suman (12 yrs), Sumawiya (10 yrs), Sneeha (9 yrs), Uhmaniya (8 yrs), Fariya (7 yrs), Rebecca (6 yrs).

Khurram gave up work to care for his daughters and for four years they remained in Karachi during which time the two eldest children were put through schooling as the father could afford it. Once the father could no longer afford to maintain their life in Karachi he sold his property and possessions and moved to Sialkot. There the cost of living was lower and he and his daughters were moving nearer to his family, who Khurram hoped would help raise his children. Khurram then started work at a football making factory at the beginning of 2016 but the money he earned was too low for him to afford to send his daughters to school so they stayed at home and the eldest child taught her siblings the basic level education that she had learnt up to the age of 11. Each day before and after work he would cook and clean his home, caring for his children with the help of his eldest daughter Suman who was a very responsible child from an early age.

On 17 April 2017 Khurram arrived home for lunch to find that the outer courtyard gate was shut but not locked. When he entered his home, he found that his three daughters had been tied up, left naked, bleeding and in visible pain. Through their panic and tears it was clear they had suffered an extremely violent attack and Khurram immediately ran to them and started to untie their restraints. Initially he thought the house had been burgled but as he untied them his daughters tearfully advised their father that their fathers eldest brother (Taya) and cousins from their fathers youngest brother (Chacha), had come to the house and started beating the children and then gang-raped them. The second daughter Sumawiya spoke to BPCA officer Mehwish Bhatti to describe the attack, she said:

"While our father was at work at around 1pm my uncle and cousins came to our home and started to beat us. They told us that we should ask for our father to leave the city of Sialkot as he is not wanted here. They then told us to remove our clothes as we were to be punished for our father asking for his share of his inheritance.

"They ripped the clothes of us and subjected us to their 'ganda kam' ( A literal translation of these words is 'dirty work' that refers to the rape in children's terms) all in front of each other. I could not reach Suman's (eldest sister) hand but held the hand of Sneha as it gave me comfort and I could see she needed my support as she did not know what was happening to her.

"Suman and I were warning my uncle and cousins that we would tell our father what happened, but they just laughed at us, pulled our hair and spat at us. They told us that if we told our father they would kill us and him and just carried on with their dirty work.'

"After my uncle had cousins finished with us they tied us up and left us bleeding, in pain and crying. We could nothing for two hours until my father returned for his lunch break and Sneha also toileted herself during that time and we are all so traumatised and are in fear of our uncles. My daddy said God will protect us and we have been praying to Him."

Khurram grabbed his daughters and hugged them and cried for a while, he then in a fit rage left his home and called for his family members to come out into the streets condemning them for the attack. All the families lived close to one another and so the wives of the men came out, as all the man were away from their homes. The wives of Khurram's brothers arrived at his home and scolded him. They accused his daughters of lying or being confused about the perpetrators of the crime, they said their men had been at work all day. The women intimated that the girls were probably traumatized and were replacing the true culprits with family members in some form of defensive mental protection.

Khurram asked the women to leave and started to console his children. He bathed them and put them to bed and a prayed for justice all night. The next day (20th April 2017) Khurram left his home early in the morning and went to the police station to report the crime. The police refused to register and FIR unless the girls underwent a medical examination and gave their witness testimony to the police at Hajipura Police Station. They refused to register an FIR despite the serious allegation and placed the onus upon him to pay for the medical assessment of the rape of his children.

Khurram could not afford the fees for the hospital tests so he went to a local NGO who paid for the medical assessments which were conducted at Sardar Begum Hospital and proved the rape of the girls. The medical assessments were submitted to Hajipura police who also conducted interviews with the three girls.

The police arrested the uncle and two cousins and remanded them for three days for questioning and extended pre-trial detention (Habeus Corpus) for seven days while they tried to get a confession. During the seven-day prolonged detention all three men confessed to the crime.

However, during their detention on 22nd April 2017, Khurram took his daughters to a local shrine where Lungar (free charitable food) was being given. They all sat down to eat and while they were doing so a uniformed police officer engaged with Khurram and asked about the girls in an unofficial capacity. While Khurram was distracted the wife of his younger brother came along in the busy environment with two unknown men and grabbed Suman and dragged her away from the eating area by her hair. Sumawiya tried calling her dad who did see or hear anything because of the loud and crowded atmosphere in the hall.

When Sumawiya finally got his attention by pulling his arm it was too late, the father ran aroud trying to find his daughter but Suman and her aunt were nowhere to be seen. When Khurram told the police officer what happened and called for action, the officer said to him 'I cannot intervene as you are outside the geographical remit of my jurisdiction. You will have to report the crime at Hajipura Police station' The family believe that police were helping the rapists as they wanted him to drop charges.

Khurram told the police what happened and an officer challenged him and said: 'These men are in prison what could they possibly do". When Khurram and his daughter confirmed they had seen an aunt and two unknown men kidnap Suman and Khurram demanded action, eventually the police went to the house of Khurram's younger brother and questioned the family. Of course, the aunt denied everything and claimed that Khurram and his girls were fabricating stories in an attempt to usurp property from the family.

Khurram went to NGO after NGO to seek help and police told all parties that a serious investigation was in place. He trusted the police and prayed to God for the swift return of his daughter.

However, after paying a bribe the three were set free from the police station on bail on 29th April 2017, despite an admission of guilt for the very heinous crime.

The police then stopped the investigation of the rapists and asked Khurram to come to the police station so they could explain the bail. During the meeting Khurram was asked by an officer to drop the case. He was advised that that peace between all parties should result in the return of his daughter Sumbal. Khurram spoke with Mehwish Bhatti and said:

"A few days after the release of these evil rapists I went to the police station and asked for progress with the rape case and the kidnap of my daughter Sumbal. The police advised me to drop the case because I would not be able to pursue the case with any success due to my financial limitations.

"I was told by an officer that there were many people on the side of the other parties who would cause me trouble and because my brother was involved it would bring shame to my family and myself.

"I told them I would never drop the case, that my daughters had gone through a brutal rape that still gives me nightmares. I had to go through the pain of washing the blood from my children after they had been through the debilitating attack in our home. I explained that my brothers and nephews were no longer relatives of mine and it would not hurt to pursue justice for my daughter against them - I beseeched them to return Sumbal to me and prostrated myself before them.

"When the police told me Sumbal would be returned if I dropped charges, I asked them if they knew that the family were holding her captive. They advised me that they assumed so and belived that dropping charges would result in her return but could not confirm. I believe the police have been bribed and are very involved in the kidnap, the conversation with a police officer as she was kidnapped suggests collusion.

"I and my children have cried ourselves to sleep every day, my children and I are homeless and have been begging on the streets of Islamabad and Lahore before the press clubs for three months calling for a return of my daughter and prosecution of the rapists guilty of the brutal attack on my young daughters. We will remain destitute until Sumbal is returned to us."

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