By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
SHEIKHUPURA, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A young Christian maid was raped and burned to death by the son of her Muslim employer in the industrial city of Sheikhupura, the second murder of a domestic servant in Pakistan’s Punjab province in less than two months, investigators confirmed Thursday April 1.
Kiran George, 20, was allegedly burned by suspect Muhammad Ahmed Raza last month because she became pregnant and wanted to report his “months of sexual abuse” to police, according to published statements and Christian advocacy and aid group Life for All (LFA).
“When she became pregnant Muhammad Ahmed Raza refused to marry her and burnt her alive by sprinkling petrolover her,” LFA added.
Raza could not immediately be reached for comment, but police said they launched a criminal investigation against him and others involved in the case.
George died March 11 at an intensive care unit in the nearby Mayo Hospital Lahore, just days after she arrived there with over 80 percent of her body burned, doctors said.
In one of the last recorded statements to police, doctors and Christian rights activists, Kiran George said Raza was assisted in the burning by his mother Zahida Bibi, who employed her.
She whispered that the incident happened after Raza asked her to come to the roof top of his house.
“I was thinking that Raza might propose to marry me…But when I reached the roof I saw Raza and his mother Zahida holding a [jerrycan] of petrol [and both] were very aggressive,” George recalled.
Soon after, she claimed, Raza threw gasoline over her and set her on fire. “In a few seconds my whole body was covered in flames. I was shouting for help but nobody came…I ran downstairs for water, but I fell down saying: ‘Please for God’s sake save my life’,”.
Speaking from her death bed, the young woman said a brother of Raza, Ahmal, intervened and rushed her to hospital. She alleged that the rich Muslim family “bribed” police “heavily” not to launch procedures against the suspects, according to the statement obtained by BosNewsLife. “They are just waiting for my death.”
After her death and an autopsy, her body was brought to a slum area of Sheikhupura, where her impoverished father George Masih, a laborer, and her mother Haleema Bibi a house wife, were accompanied by demonstrators demanding justice, Christians said.
They blocked a road demanding that police would detain the suspects and threatened not to remove or bury George’s human remains before the arrests took place, explained LFA representative Rizwan Paul.
“Then police talked with the demonstrators and assured them that the culprits would be found,” he told BosNewsLife.
The latest burning incident came after another Christian maid, 12-year-old Shazia Bashit, died January 22 after alleged abuse by her Muslim boss.
Her family claims she was tortured, but the employer, a lawyer and a former head of the Lahore Bar Association —says she fell down stairs, and died January 22 “of complications from a skin disease.”
In a seperate case, Christian domestic servant Martha Masih, 33, was raped by possibly three police officers in a police station of the town of Rawalpindi, March 19, after she and her husband refused to convert to Islam, several Christian and law enforcement officials confirmed to BosNewsLife. Her husband, 38-year-old driver Arshed Masih, was reportedly burned outside the station and died of his injuries March 23.
The cases have underscored concerns however over the situation of Christians and other servants in Pakistan, often children and youngsters working on average for $50 a month.
They can also be seen at the edges of birthday parties and nights out in fancy restaurants serving children of wealthy parents.
Pakistani advocacy groups say the root of the problem is poverty but there is concern that tougher legislation would do little to improve the living conditions of desperate young people from the countryside looking for work and money for their destitute families. (With editing by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).