04/18/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Muslims strip Christian woman in Punjab because she "dressed up", shoot at her son

by Shafique Khokhar
A family in Gojra is attacked by some Muslims because they like to "dress up". The mother is brutally beaten whilst her son is shot at, luckily without consequences. Police and the courts fail to apprehend the offenders. The local priest says that such violence is used to maintain people in "conditions of inferiority".

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A Christian woman was harassed, beaten and stripped in public by some Muslims belonging to the local land mafia because in her family people like to dress up too much. Her son almost suffered a worse fate. When he tried to help her, they fire at him but narrowly missed. As tragic as this is, it is typical of the violence and persecution Christians endure. More than a month after the incident, which occurred in mid-March, both police and the courts have not brought any redress or punished the offenders. "These thugs pursue their own interests," a local priest said; in so doing, they violate the rights of the "weakest elements in society."

Shamin Bibi, a 42-year-old mother of five, works in a brick kiln. She is originally from Chak 179 G.B., in Gojra, a town in Toba Tek Singh District (Punjab), where several Christians died in an attack in 2009.

During her brutal assault, her attackers badly beat her and ripped her clothes off. When her 22-year-old son Naqshaq Masih tried to intervene, they attacked him with bricks and shot at him. Luckily, they missed.

Two Muslim landlords, brothers Sajid Ali and Abid Ashan, were responsible for the attack. They exert a mafia-style control over the area.  

The reason for their action appears even more absurd than the action itself. They do not want Christians to "dress up", even on holidays or Sunday for Mass.

As second-class subjects, not much better than animals, minority Christians are not allowed to wear elegant clothes. They can only dress rough garments. In the past, they have often been subject to mafia-styled threats and "warnings".  In fact, another of Shamin Bibi's sons had to flee to avoid being killed.

On the day of the atatck, the Christian woman was at home alone with a daughter, and pleaded to the men to go away because there was no male member of the family present.

Initially, police opened a first information report and arrested the offenders. However, a week later they were released after paying off the police.

On Monday, Shamin Bibi filed a suit against her attackers, appearing before a district judge in Gojra. The latter however rejected her application. Her family plans to continue their battle for justice but their chances in court are slim.

A resident in her town spoke to AsiaNews on condition of anonymity. "Landlords have no pity," he said. "They can only waste the wealth" their parents accumulated. They engage in violence and abuse the poor. "If the latter refuse to follow their orders, they are beaten." These people "walk around with guns and have no respect for Christians," he said.

Fr Yaqub Yousaf, a parish priest in Gojra, agrees. "Social injustice and divisions are used by cruel landlords to protect their vested interests and maintain people on the margins of our society in conditions of inferiority."

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