Rawalpindi: November 2, 2017. (PCP) A young Pakistani Christian woman who has suffered 4 years of stalking and harassment from a Muslim man in her hometown of Rawalpindi is being refused any help from her local Police constabulary.
Samina Iqbal aged 17 years, a Christian youth was 13 years old and in Grade 7 when the heckling and cat calling began 4 years ago in 2013. Adam Babbas of 27 years age, a Muslim man in her Rawalpindi neighborhood, who is 10 years her senior, is the man accused. Samina alleges that Mr Babbas had been accosting her daily on her way to school, from her account he would often block her path demanding that she speak with him and he persistently insisted that she marry him. His inappropriate marriage propositions breach the legal age for marriage in Pakistan which stipulated a bride should be at least 16 years of age, but full of bravado Mr Babbas cared little for the law. When her family attempted to intervene, and asked him to stop bothering their young daughter, he would not listen and began harassing Samina's family as well.
Day in and day out Mr Babbas would lay in wait for Samina hoping to catch her on her way to school. For Samina however the chance of meeting with him filled her with fear and dread, so much so that often she would stay at home and cry her day away having lost all hope. When Mr Abbas realized she had ceased attending classes, he began sitting outside her house like a prison guard, yelling her name and badgering her family determined to know where she was.
According to Samina and her family, when all of this started happening they tried to reason with Adam Babbas. Samina's father and brother tried to talk to him about staying away from her but Adam refused to comply with their wishes. Mr Babbas carried on with his abusive routine, and it got even worse. According to Samina's family the teenager's movements were so restricted by the intimidation of Adam Babbas that not only could Samina no longer attend school, but she could not leave her home for a whole year and as a result fell seriously ill and became depressed.
Mr Babbas, a grown man fixated on this innocent girl, visited the home of Samina's family daily and yelled out crude and aggressive comments. To make things more convenient for himself Mr Abbas managed to move into living accommodation next to his teen-aged victim's house. The result of this was an exacerbation of the emotional torture Samina and her family already were consumed with. Furthermore, their ire was compounded by a series of drunken rantings during evening parties with his friends, at which he would make a sport of screaming out abusive words and phrases directed at them for all to hear.
Samina's failing health kept her housebound which seemed to irk Mr Babbas culminating in him attempting to enter her house demanding to see Samina. After this incident Samina's family decided to make a complaint against Adam so they went to the Waris Khan police station to file a report. The police offered to speak with Adam and see what they could do about the situation.
However, when the police came with Samina's father to speak with Adam, he pulled a dagger on the police officer and the policeman fled, in fear of being stabbed. Mr Babbas reacted badly to the attempts to report him to the police, that same day he came to Samina's house and forced himself in, uttering threats and using abusive words to harass them. In a fit of rage, he got physically violent with Samina's 19 y/o sister, Venus and according to the family, her clothes were torn in that altercation. The next day Samina's father returned to the police authorities and told them what had happen but no police officer did anything to assist the beleaguered family. Rather than arresting Adam Babbas for attempting to assault a police officer, the officer at the desk responded with a trite answer that let the family's tormentor off the hook. He left Samina's family to fend for themselves, telling her father, Iqbal Barqat,"to go and settle this matter in a peaceful manner because the boy Adam took out a knife and waved it at policemen."
Shockingly the police did not see that Adam's violent outburst to an officer of the law warranted more than their abysmal advice, for some unconscionable reason they were too fearful of approaching the perpetrator again. Nor did the police view the altercation as indicative of the danger faced by this young woman and her family.
Understandably her family now feel helpless, dejected by the fact that not even the police are intervening to keep them from remaining the target of Adam Babbas. No wonder this draconian, self-supposed "Romeo" seems to have no fear of harassing this young Catholic girl and her family who have already endured 4 years of torment.
Surprisingly Adam seemed to have briefly changed his ways, and making a great spectacle in front of the whole neighbourhood went to Samina's family "to resolve the matter peacefully". Adam said that he would stop harassing Samina and would not continue his behaviour.
Brimful of hope, Samina started working at a salon and felt the freedom of leaving her house again. However, after a few days Mr Babbas started hounding Samina; all over again, using her journey back and forth to the salon as an opportunity to bully her. One day when Samina and her sister were returning home from the salon Adam stopped her and instructed her that he did not appreciate the fact that she was working at a salon and wanted her to stop. Moreover, he then warned her that failure to comply with his wishes would result in acid being thrown upon her!
Samina's older sister Venus fought off her younger sister's stalker and neighbours came to help pacify the situation. Samina, tired of life passing her by, continue going to the salon for a while but Adam's harassment has gotten so out of hand that Samina now fears he will eventually follow through with the threat of an acid attack. To protect herself she has once again left her job.
Samina is stuck between a rock and a hard place, not knowing what tactics Mr Babbas will employ next to attain his ultimate goal of marrying her. It seems he has already stolen away her childhood and at every turn cuts off opportunities for a better life.
BPCA Officer Mehwish Bhatti expressed the distress felt by this young woman: "It's sad to hear how this Christian girl has lost her ambitions and dreams of a brighter future, because fear of an impending and looming attack has left her so dishevelled. Samina should have the freedom to live as she wants and this man should be punished. He has left her without an education and has destroyed a promising career."
Keri-Lynn Gibbs, BPCA researcher, said: "Acid attacks are a very real threat and have become increasingly frequent over the past few years and viciously threatening to mar the life of an innocent woman for spurning sexual advances is not something that should be tolerated in a civil society. In Pakistan these horrible violations happen so frequently that there is an organization wholly committed to helping victims of acid attacks, so it is difficult to fathom why such threats could be trivialized.
If law enforcement took sexual harassment seriously and committed to doing their duty, perhaps the plight of Pakistani women from religious minorities would improve.
However, having a law unfortunately doesn't mean the authorities or the society at large have the will to enforce it.
Despite forced marriage being made illegal earlier this year the statistics showing that upward of 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year, and this shows no signs of decreasing. (click here)
Ironically the police who told Samina's downtrodden family to "resolve it peacefully", were not willing to help maintain the peace in their community when there happened to be any difficulty involved, but rather cowered to the abuser by not even laying charges after a knife was pulled on one from their own detachment.
"Unfortunately, in Pakistan there is lawlessness when it comes the basic human rights of women and girls; the normative response is an unusually high tolerance for extremist groups seeking to keep the status quo rather than enforcing laws meant to bring improvement." (click here)
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said: "Once again the police services provided in Pakistan are brought to disrepute simply for failing comply with their own protocol. The indiscipline and lack of empathy shown for Samina and her family in indicative of the low value placed on Christian lives.
"Sexual harassment is not new to Pakistani authorities, nor is the blatant ignoring of submitted complaints which actually follows a very usual pattern. Maherwar Ishaq who was harassed at the Pakistani Embassy in Thailand and is still awaiting justice (click here).
"Our lead officer will be raising this new sexual harassment case with senior police officials and we hope to get a crime registered, however it should not be the duty of NGO's to galvanise police response.
"I personally will be writing to the Pakistan Embassy in the UK and hope that awareness of this issue will eventually bring change to a longstanding systemic malaise."