London: A Christian 6-year-old girl was beaten and raped after being forcibly taken to the home of a Muslim rapist in broad daylight. In a sickening twist the local Muslim community are threatening the Christian parents with violence, the rape of their other daughters and financial ruin if they proceed with a legal case against paedophile Muhammad Waqas (18 yrs).
Tabitha had just returned home from school at around 1.30 when she was struck with a strong desire for some sweets. She had some money left over from her school dinner money and travelled to the market stalls on her road to get some. While there she played with some of her friends for a while taking advantage of her early end to school (1.30pm) due to December exams. However, by 3pm when she had not returned home her father Munir Balli Masih (44 yrs) became quite anxious. Munir finishes work as a sanitary worker for Military Engineering Services in Cant Lahore early in the day and then cares for his children who return from school a short while later. At around 3pm Munir began a search on the streets for his daughter but could not find her and other children did not know where she was.
Munir became more frantic and began asking local neighbours and community members if they had seen her daughter but no-one, he spoke to had an inkling. Spotting his distress as Munir was searching around in the streets his brother Akram Balli (48 yrs) and a friend James Rehmat (both who lives a few houses away on the same street as Munir) approached him and asked what was wrong. When Munir explained that Tabitha was missing the two men advised him that they had seen Tabitha walking away with a local Muslim man named Muhammad Waqas.
Speaking to a BACA representative last week, Tabitha explained what happened, she said: "I was playing in the street with my friends when Waqas met with me.
"He offered to let me play on the swings in his home but I declined.
"He grabbed my arm and I shouted 'Leave me alone, I want to go home', but this made him angry.
"He slapped me hard across the face and I was shocked into silence.
"He told me he would make me quiet forever if I made another noise - so I stayed silent.
"Tears were streaming down my face but no-one helped me."
On hearing the news Munir made a beeline for the home of Waqas which was on a perpendicular road at the top of his street. As Munir got closer to the home of waqas he could see from a distance that his daughter was being pushed out of the home with her clothes in tatters, she was disheveled and could be seen to be visibly shaking and crying.
Munir ran to her and saw Waqas abruptly slam his door shut on seeing Munir getting closer to his home. Munir grabbed his daughter and collected her into his arms after hugging her tightly he questioned her on what had happened and was given a horrifying account of the rape ordeal that his daughter had been subjected to.
Tabitha had been verbally abused, shouted at, slapped and beaten and forced to do a number of sex acts with Waqas. She had been stripped of her clothes and had described her terror that she would be killed by Waqas, it was earth-shattering for Munir.
Munir banged hard on the door of Waqas who refused to open it so he returned to his home carrying his daughter and called the police. The police told him to travel to Police Station Cant South and Munir duly visited to register an First Information Report (FIR) against the rapist Muhammad Waqas. Report SC-12/09/2019 -11753 was registered against Mohammad Waqas for the rape of Tabitha.
later the same day police went to the home of Waqas and he was arrested, Tabitha was taken to a medical examiner who found evidence of rape and brutality and a positive match on DNA tracing with that of Waqas.
Though evidence for the case was strong with eye witnesses and medical evidence Pakistan is a country where justice is an insulting word. The culprit Waqas comes from a family who are politically and financially sound and immediately lead figures from the family began threatening Munir to withdraw the FIR and to agree to a financial compromise (settle the case and absolve the culprit via a monetary payment under Qisas and Diyat laws). But the parents refused.
To pressure the family a wealthy and powerful Muslim named Ali from the area even threatened Munir and his family, demanding they accept a compromise even in the presence of the Station House Officer (SHO) and other officers in the police station. None of theme intervened or provided any protection from the threats - it seemed they too wanted the Muslim rapist to be set free.
As court proceedings processed a bail petition no.6372 was filed in the court of Additional Session Judge Faisal Mehmood Meer. he however found the accused guilty and the bail petition was dismissed on merit. This bail petition was dismissed on 04/02/20.
Munir explained what happened next, he said: "Two Imams from local mosques came to my home and asked me to stop proceedings and to not pursue the case.
"They said 'we shall burn your house and take away your other daughters too, if you fail to comply'.
"I was very frightened and left my home empty, fleeing in the night to protect my daughters, to a place of refuge with some family members in the village of Kahar."
However, the family of Muhammad Waqas discovered Munir's location and approached Chuadhary Dilshad Akbar Sindhu, an influential Muslim who had contested the seat for Member of Provincial Assembly unsuccessfully.
Munir Masih and his family were frequently called to Chuadhary Dilshad’s mansion where Munir and his wife Rubina were instructed to conciliate with Waqas and his family.
“Employees of Ch. Dilshad would call us to his home every third or fourth day.
"There we would find members of the opposing party sitting on chairs and sofas while we were told 'Churas' (derogatory word meaning dirty Christians) must sit on the bare floor. and we were allowed to sit on the bare ground while themselves sitting on the sofas and chairs.”
"They would say, 'chura settle this matter today, take this money and live your life. You cannot afford the cost of a court battle'.
"they offered us 60,000 rupees but we declined every time, we were adamant that our daughter would get justice in the courts."
Munir and Rubina faced a lot of abuse and threats in the home of Ch. Dilshad and he offered them no help he kept siding with the rapist and it was evident to the family these meetings were of no use.
The family realised Kuhar was not safe for them and they moved back to their former house where at least their neighbours would offer some protection and the family of Munir.
On 8th of September, the culprit was granted the bail despite the fact that his bail petition in the Court of Additional Session Judge Faisal Mehmood Meer was dismissed on merit. The initial judgement explicitly states that the medical officer’s report and investigation officer’s report doubtlessly prove the involvement of Muhammad Waqas in the rape of Tabitha. So you can imagine the acceptance of bail by a qualified judge was earth-shattering, an indictment of the nations failure to provide justice to girls and minorities.
Our Operations Manager, said: "Tears rolled from the eyes of Munir while I hugged him in the yard of Lahore High Courts.
"The paedophile rapist who had sexually assaulted his daughter on many counts was granted bail and it caused him intense pain.
"It was excruciating for him to see the rapist of his tender-aged daughter released - I felt broken myself."
Rubina spoke after the judgement, he said: "When I returned home from work, my daughter told me that Muhammad Waqas had been granted bail.
"That night we none of us could eat anything.
"We pray for safety every day now as Waqas threatens us daily and shouts abuse at us each day when we leave our home - he wolf whistles at my daughters and it is breaking us."
Tabitha spoke to our BPCA representative, she said:
“I fear going school.
I fear he will beat me.
"I am worried he will take me his home again”
Staying in the area had exposed Tabitha and family to danger. They are poor and they need proper legal assistance they have asked BACA to help.
Munir, said: “I want justice for my daughter. I want justice for every daughter. I want culprit be punished so that he may not harm the daughters of others.”
British Asian Christian Association has set-up an appeal for the family. Ideally we would like to raise £1500 to cover legal fees and £150 a month to cover the cost of a safe house and money towards food.