By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Two Muslim men remained behind bars Friday, December 2, after they were sentenced to long prison terms for raping a Christian girl, but the case was overshadowed by the killing of another rape victim and police brutality against a pregnant Christian woman and her husband, trial observers said.
The court said there was enough evidence that Gulshan Bibi, who agreed to be named, was raped in 2008 by Amman Ullah and Ramzan, also known as Jani. Ullah was sentenced to life imprisonment and Ramzan to five years, but it was not immediately clear whether the two would appeal.
“Gulshan, now 20, was raped in her village, Nankana Sahib. Despite strong opposition from her family, Gulshan was brave enough to report the crime to the police and continued to seek court action,” said the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) which supports her case.
Threats allegedly forced Gulshan to seek shelter and CLAAS said it too had been the target of “threats from extremists.”
While rights activists said they were pleased suspects had now been sentenced, they made clear that the trial was overshadowed by news that another victim, a Christian mother of four, was killed by a Muslim colleague in Pakistan after she resisted his attempt to rape her at the factory where they worked.
“Zubaida Bibi, 35, a cleaner at a garment factory in East Karachi, was attacked by a Muslim co-worker” on October 12, said Barnabas Fund, a group investigating the plight of reportedly persecuted Christians in predominantly Muslim nations.
“She went into the bathrooms to clean the facilities and he followed her, locking the door behind them. When he attempted to assault Zubaida sexually, she cried for help, at which point the attacker pulled out a dagger and slit her throat. She died at the scene.”
The man, who was not immediately identified, was detained at the factory after management called police, the group added. Zubaida leaves husband Younas Masih and children Arifa Bibi, Uroosa Bibi, Shahzaib Masih and Aurengzaib Masih, Christians said.
Almost a thousand women, including Christians, were raped in Pakistan during 2010 while over 2,000 were abducted and almost 1,500 murdered, according to the Aurat Foundation, an organization working for the protection of women in the country.
A further 500 were the victims of “honor killings”, a custom under which relatives and other fellow tribesmen kill a woman if they believe she had an affair.
In most cases the alleged perpetrators are never brought to court amid a stigma on sexual abuse and Muslim extremism in this heavily Islamic nation, rights activists say.
While CLAAS said it was pleased suspects had now been sentenced, Christians mad clear that the trial was overshadowed by news that a pregnant Christian maid and her husband were detained and beaten by Pakistani police for three days in a separate case on trumped-up charges of theft.
“I begged them for mercy, pleading that I am five months pregnant, but they continued their merciless onslaught for over three hours,” said Salma Emmanuel, wife of Emmanuel Rasheed, who name has also been given as Emmanuel Masih.
Salma Emmanuel, 30, told reporters that the mistreatment occurred Sunday, November 6, after she was falsely accused of a robbery at the house of her employer in the Kunj Jadeed Mohalla area of Abbottabad city, some 56 kilometers (35 miles) north of the capital Islamabad.
“They continued to try to force me to admit to the crime, even threatening that they would kill my baby, but I refused to confess a false allegation.”
Police denied however that Emmanuel had been tortured at a local police station in Abbottabad city, a military area where U.S. forces killed al-Qaida terror network chief Osama bin Laden in May.
Speaking from hospital, a sobbing Emmanuel said the troubles began after she bought gold ornaments of about 100 grams for her brother’s wedding in the nearby town of Rawalpindi.
“On Saturday around 1am [local time my employer] Ghazal Riaz called and said that there has been a robbery. The robbers took around 900,000 Rupees ($10,645) and approx 300 grams gold ornaments.”
Her husband said in a statement that police offered to drop the theft charges against his wife if he renounced his Christianity. Police officials have not commented but said earlier that she had not been tortured.
Rights groups say this isn’t the first time a Christian maid has been accused of theft.
In April, a 14-year-old Christian girl was also detained and beaten for theft, said Christian rights activist Napoleon Qayyum.
The cases come amid mounting international pressure on Pakistan’s government to improve the plight of minorities, including Christian women, and tackle Islamic extremism.