After writing the story of the recent Christian victims; British Pakistani Christian Association –BPCA asked me to visit them to provide some counseling, advice and prayer. It was a courtesy call which brought following facts.
I started my journey on Thursday morning at 6:30 am from Islamabad towards Sheikhupura. I reached the location where the incident occurred Darghi, PS Rana Town, Ferozwala, Sheikhupura at around 1300 hours, but could not find the family there. Some neighbors informed me that Elishba and her family had been relocated to Lahore for their safety after a series of local threats and demands for them to drop the charges against the culprits of her attack. Eventually I met with Elishba at around 1800 hours she was then living with relatives. Elishba was in tears, she has suffered a brutal beating and the loss of her child had obviously scarred her emotionally. She described the vicious attack which involved being hit with metal poles while other men watched and jeered after an altercation with clients. She spoke of the deep embarrassment she felt in being stripped naked so publicly. Elishba showed some of the scars on her legs from her brutal attack, these were not her worst injuries. Sadly she also described how the Muslim men beat her stomach when she told that she was pregnant, the two assailants told her “Christian children are no better then feces" as they murdered the embryo within her.
The argument began after Elihsba who provides private beautician services asked for the fees for her service from the woman called Rani and her daughter, who she had just completed work on. They refused to pay and Rani called her sons to attack Elishba who she said had insulted her. In addition to her child Elishba lost her phone, one week’s wages and gold jewelry which in total amounted to around Rs. 50,000 - these items were stolen by Rani's sons either. Other men threw stones at her and laughed as she ran naked from the area. Another Christian woman from the local area took her into her home, and gave her some spare clothes. Elishba and I prayed for her lost child, the safety of her family and for justice to prevail.
Whilst I was there my Chairman Wilson Chowdhry called as BBC Asia Network asked if they could speak to Elishba Bibi for a radio feature. She agreed to the interview, as she wanted British people to know that the life of Christians in Pakistan is one fraught with prejudice and violence. Elishba has three other children and has asked for people to pray for them, she fears for the safety of her family after this attack.
I left Elishba Bibi at 7pm and travelled towards the home of Sherisha and Farzana in Jaranwala with team members from Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan - SLMP. This address was around 100 kilometers from Lahore, but the road was very bad and it took us more than two hours to reach there. I kept contact with their father Ilyas Masih by mobile phone as despite their suffering; they were concerned about my well being. The route I took is not safe at any time and the road is subject to looting by highwayman, but I accepted the risk and trusted in God, simply wanting to pray with this family that has undergone such a debilitating attack. Their village Chack no. 651/2 is a few kilometers from the main road and is a very small village with around 200 families, of which around forty are Christian families. Most residents earn their livings as laborers.
The victim family which includes a father and five children has been making carpets in their home and survive on the sales of the carpets at a local market. Their house is made of mud with no safe boundary wall and has no wash room or toilet in the house. Sadly few household items were seen in their room - they live a very Spartan lifestyle. The mother of the children died few years ago. I discovered the two girls work as carpet-makers as they need the finance. Regrettably none of the five children attend school.
The two girls, Sehrish (18yrs) and Farzana (14yrs) described the incident to me, Sehrish said;
"I went to a hidden place in the local fields with my sister, whom we use for toilets as we cannot afford one in our home. When we had finished three young men holding pistols demanded that we go to their home nearby, they threatened to shoot us if we did not comply and my sister and I were both very scared. We were both crying and I held my sisters hand to give her some support and because I needed it myself."
Both the girls cried as they remembered the attack. Sehrish carried on;
"The young men kept touching us in private areas while we walked, they were laughing and jeering, my sister and I felt humiliated. We knew what was going to happen to us and were terrified, but we had no choice. We both prayed to God to free us from their clutches. We recognized the young men as they were from our local area and I pleaded with them not to do anything to us, for talking I was slapped in the face and punched hard in my stomach. We both kept quite after this. The young men Shahbaz, Asif and Azeem took us to their house and ripped our clothes off. They kept us there for the whole night and gang raped us many times."
The girls described how they were very frightened throughout the whole ordeal and kept quiet; they felt hurt and unclean and expressed a feeling of great shame, despite being innocent. After the ordeal the rapists set the two girls free early in the morning at around 6am. They ran home weeping and told their father what happened, he had been extremely worried about them and had been hysterical on hearing about the torturous ordeal his girls had suffered. Mr Ilyas Masih (father) explained that he had waited for the girls and had reported them missing to the local police, he had been searching for them in nearby houses and tried his best to find them throughout the night.
The father returned to the police station the following day but police officials were unwilling to register a First Incident Report (FIR). The father has received support towards legal costs and their lawyer convinced Civil Judge Kamran to order a medical test on then girls which has been returned an proves forcible rape. Judge Kamran instructed police to register an FIR. And two culprits Azeem and Shahbaz were arrested. Police have informed me that the culprits have previously been accused of rape by another Christian family, who had to accept a compromise settlement as it was hard to prove guilt. Despite evidence the Police and other people of the village are trying to force Ilyas to reach a similar compromise. Ilyas Said;
"My daughters are worth more than a few rupees, I want justice for them and do not want these evil boys to take the innocence of any other girls." He broke down and cried. "Their poor mother would be devastated with this news if she were alive; I feel as if I have failed them, I will not fail them again."
We reached at 2;00 am in Lahore and I started my journey back to Islamabad at 6 am.