ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistani Christians have expressed concerns about renewed kidnappings and abuse of women and girls by Muslims in a country still reeling from the recent assassination of a Christian government minister.
Among those targeted was Sehar Naz, a 24-year-old employee with Pakistan’s State Life Insurance Corporation in Punjab province, who was recovering of her injuries Monday, May 23, after she was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a Pakistan Army officer.
BosNewsLife identified her as she had openly spoken about the case with the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an independent group “working for Christians who are persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan.”
In remarks published by CLAAS, Naz said the troubles began when she was meeting with her company’s “Area Sales Manager on April 14 when they were approached by a man who claimed to be a police officer.”
He allegedly said he had received a call about them and requested to see their identification cards. As Sehar did not have her ID card with her at the time, the man took her away to his home, Naz said.
She claimed she was repeatedly raped at gunpoint in different locations around the Punjab cities of Faisalabad and Lahore over a period of four days before being dumped by her kidnapper at Faisalabad train station.
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The army major, identified in media reports as Rana Atif, allegedly threatened to implicate her parents in a bombing if she told anyone about her ordeal. There was no response to the allegations by the Pakistan Army or the major.
Police and medics have confirmed she was raped, but the alleged rapist remained at large Monday, May 23, with police saying they are still investigating the case.
Naz case is no isolated incident. Earlier, news emerged that a Pakistani teenager, is being held against her will by an influential Muslim family in a village near the city of Sheikhupura in Punjab province.
The 17-year-old girl, Maryam Masih, is being held since last Tuesday, May 17, because one of her brothers allegedly eloped with a woman from the Muslim family, Christians said.
Local Christians said the situation is pitting the area’s 1,800 Muslim families against the up to 1.000 Christian families in the area. The Christian family said they have been warned that involving police would lead to even more bloodshed than the carnage on Gojra town nearly two years ago.
At least seven Christians were burned alive by Muslim mobs in Gojra after Christians were accused of blaspheming Islam on August 1, 2009, investigators said.
Reports of the kidnappings come amid mounting tensions in Pakistan where Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the cabinet, was shot dead by gunmen in March after publicly campaigning against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
In January, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard. Bhatti praised the slain governor for speaking out against the misuse of the Islamic law of blasphemy, and told reporters the killing was “a barbaric act”.
Pakistan’s Christians make up less than five percent of the country’s 175 million people and have long complained of discrimination, according to official estimates.