By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– An influential Christian party in Pakistan has demanded the immediate arrest of five Muslim men who it said “gang-raped and murdered” a 12-year-old Christian girl, at a time of mounting religious tensions in this heavily Islamic nation.
Muqadas Kainat was attacked in Sahiwal city, in the country’s east-central Punjab province, on August 14 when people celebrated Pakistan’s annual Independence Day, confirmed the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) party Monday, August 27.
The incident happened when the girl “went in the fields to pee”, the PCC said in its online publication Pakistan Christian Post. “She was gang raped and murdered by five Muslims and never returned home.”
Nazir S. Bhatti, the president of PCC, told BosNewsLife he is upset that nearly two weeks after the reported rape nobody has been taken into police custody.
“PCC demands the arrest of the culprits to ensure justice,” he said.
Muqadas Kainat, which means ‘Holy Universe’ in English, was reportedly raped while her father Rafique Masih visited his wife who was hospitalized for appendix problems.
The murdered girl was the oldest of seven children of the kiln worker and his wife, PCC said.
A Muslim clerk informed Masih that his daughter’s human remains were likely laying in nearby fields, prompting a search involving her father and villagers.
Police recovered Muqadas’ human remains on August 15, PCC said, adding that a “postmortem…proved that she was gang raped and later strangled to death by five men.”
Local police registered a complaint, known as a ‘First Information Report’, against the suspected rapists and killers, but there were no reports of detentions Monday, August 27.
“Shaiwal is a remote district of Punjab province of Pakistan and the gang rape and murder of Muqadas Kainat failed to attract media attention or the rush of Non Governmental Organization workers,” PCC said.
There are complaints within Pakistan’s Christian community that authorities are often unwilling to investigate cases of rape or other violence against Christians, in several cases because of fear for influential Muslims or militants.
Police was not immediately available for comment.
A Christian youth leader in area, whose name was not identified for security reasons, is helping the girl’s impoverished family “to ensure justice”, PCC said.
Several Christian girls are known to have been raped and forced to marry and embrace Islam in Pakistan, according to rights groups.
The murder has underscored fears of even spreading violence against Christians, BosNewsLife monitored.
Monday’s confirmation of the rape comes just shortly after the jailing Rimsha Masih, a mentally handicapped Christian girl, on charges of “blasphemy”.
Muslim mobs reportedly also torched Christian homes, “destroyed” a church in a slum area of Islamabad, and shot at another church outside Pakistan’s capital, following the girl’s August 17 detention, witnesses told BosNewsLife last week.l
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari stressed in a statement he took “notice” of the situation and ordered the Interior Ministry to investigate the girl’s detention.
The government has come under international pressure from the European Union and the United States to better protect its Christian minority and overturn controversial blasphemy legislation.