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Pakistan Hangs Men For Raping Christian Girl, But Deadly Violence Continues

Monday, July 3, 2006 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- Tensions remained high in Pakistan's Punjab province Saturday, July 1, after four men were hanged on charges of gang-raping a teenaged Christian girl at gunpoint in the central city of Faisalabad seven years ago.

The death sentence, condemned by human rights group Amnesty International (AI), was seen as a warning to Muslim militants to end attacks against minority Christians in Punjab. In one of the latest attacks last month, a new born baby died when an angry Muslim mob bulldozed a home and killed the new born baby of a Christian family, BosNewsLife learned.

The men who were hanged Thursday, June 29, gang-raped a Christian woman at gunpoint in 1999 when they robbed her family of $1,000, said prison officials in Faisalabad, an industrial city where the men were arrested. Umar Hayat, 35, Mubarak Ali, 36, Mohammed Ashraf, 32 and Mohammed Shahzad, 31, who were all Muslims, were convicted by an anti-terrorism court and the verdict was upheld by higher courts, including the Federal Sharia (Islamic) Court.

President General Pervez Musharraf had rejected mercy pleas from the men.

"The men were hanged at 4:30 a.m.," the prison in Faisalabad said in a statement. Faisalabad Jail superintendent Yousaf Ghauri told reporters the men were hanged at the
high-security prison. Their bodies were handed over to relatives waiting outside the jail, he said.

FAMILY ABSENT

The victim's family did not attend the executions, Ghauri said. Her father had reportedly told the court that the four took turns in raping his daughter inside his home and threatened to kill him if he raised the alarm.

Christians form a small minority in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan and incidents of sectarian violence are highly sensitive. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reportedly recorded 207 cases of gang-rape in Pakistan during 2005. Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, says 241 persons were sentenced to death in Pakistan during 2005, and 32 people were executed.

However Christian leaders say many suspects involved in sexual assaults and other violence against Christians are often not punished because of the reluctance of victims or family members to come forward or because local law enforcement authorities refuse to seriously investigate the persecution reports.

HOUSE BULLDOZED

As an example, rights watchers recalled how last week a 40-days-old son of a Christian couple was killed in the village of Gadi Wind in Punjab's Kasur district when their house suddenly bulldozed by angry Muslims who claimed the Christians occupied that land.

In published remarks Mansha Masih, a worker, said the attack happened while his wife, Arshad Bibi was alone with their two-year-old daughter and new born son, with the apparent support by local police.

"My father, brothers and I were present at our work place on the day of occurrence. Somebody informed me that [influential Muslim businessman] Nazar Mohammad [who claimed the
land] bulldozed my house and my son is also died", the Pakistan Christian Post newspaper quoted him as saying on its website. "We rushed the house and saw our house was demolished and my wife was howling on my son’s death."

He said local police refused to register the case and even threatened him not to raise his voice. "We took the dead body to hospital for a medical certificate but [business man]
Nazar Mohammad already was there before us...When we asked doctor for medical certificate, he refused, saying that my son died of starvation." Local police and medical officials could not be reached for comment. Christian rights investigators have condemned local authorities for their perceived inaction.

FAMILY HOMELESS

Sohail Johnson, Chief Coordinatot of the Christian group Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan which visited the location, said in a statement that "Mansha along with entire family members became homeless." He complained that so far "a criminal case could not be registered against Nazar Mohammad for killing a baby boy of Mansha Masih."

Christians comprise less than 3 percent of Pakistan's predominantly Muslim population of about 166 million people, according to estimates. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from Pakistan).

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Worthy Christian News » Christian Persecution » Christian Persecution - Asia » Pakistan Hangs Men For Raping Christian Girl, But Deadly Violence Continues