Two Christian women assaulted in Pakistan

By Christian Daily International / Morning Star News |
Rukhsana Bibi (R) and sister-in-law Asifa Bibi were assaulted in Chak 11 village, Sargodha District, Pakistan on Jan. 27, 2024.
Rukhsana Bibi (R) and sister-in-law Asifa Bibi were assaulted in Chak 11 village, Sargodha District, Pakistan on Jan. 27, 2024. | (Christian Daily International-Morning Star News)

Police in Pakistan slow to prosecute a Muslim who attacked two Christian women with an axe and attempted to rape one of them are weakening the case against him, sources said.

Abdul Rauf, a Muslim landowner in Sargodha District, Punjab Province, on Jan. 27 attacked Rukhsana Bibi of Chak 11 village, Janoobi Colony, and her sister-in-law, Asifa Bibi, when the women went to his field to relieve themselves, said Rukhsana’s husband, Nasir Masih.

When Rukhsana Bibi resisted Rauf’s attempt to rape her, he struck her repeatedly with the handle of his axe, Masih said.

“When my sister Asifa heard Rukhsana’s screams for help, she rushed into the field and tried to stop Abdul Rauf, but he attacked her too,” Masih told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

Though injured, the women’s efforts to defend themselves forced Rauf to flee, Masih said. Rukhsana Bibi, 36, is a mother to four young children, and the 34-year-old Asifa Bibi has three children.

Silanwali Police were reluctant to register a First Information Report (FIR) against the suspect, stalling for three days, Masih said. After a local Christian politician intervened, officers registered an FIR on Tuesday (Jan. 30) but under lesser charges of attempted rape and assault for which bail was available, he said.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, a local Christian political leader and attorney, said the FIR clearly states that the suspect was armed with an axe and made a rape attempt.

“This criminal action should have invoked sections 377 [attempt to rape] and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which are non-bailable,” Chaudhry told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “The accused has also influenced the medico-legal reports, which downplayed the injuries of the two women even though cuts on Rukhsana’s face and Asifa’s hand had to be stitched.”

After Sargodha Superintendent of Police (SP) Investigation Farhan Aslam met with Chaudhry and a team from Lahore-based rights group Christians True Spirit (CTS), Aslam on Wednesday (Jan. 31) directed Silanwali police to include the more serious charges for attempted rape and assault in the FIR, Chaudhry said.

CTS Director Katherine Sapna said they also urged the superintendent of police to direct officers to arrest Rauf.

“He has so far managed to avoid arrest, but we hope that after the SP’s intervention, the local police will now stop aiding the accused and ensure justice and protection to the Christian family,” Sapna told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

She said that CTS had also resolved to build toilets at four Christian residences in the village to help reduce risk of more such attacks.

“Two or three Christian families are living in each of the 10 houses of Christians in the village, yet not one house has a latrine,” Sapna said. “In view of the problem facing these people, particularly this rape attempt, we have decided to immediately build latrines in at least four houses so that the Christian women and girls would not have to go outside in the fields.”

Christians and people of other minority religions have long been attacked with impunity in the 96-percent Muslim country. Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, as it was the previous year.