Protestors gathered to support the Masih family
Protestors gathered to support the Masih family (World Watch Monitor)

The father of a 16-year-old girl allegedly raped by her neighbour believes she has little hope of justice because the accused is well-connected politically in the local area.

Nasar Masih believes the police will ultimately favour the suspect, who he believes was able to rape his daughter in expectation of immunity from prosecution due to “some support from his family and political leadership of the area”.

“But obviously the police will not implicate them,” he added.

16-year-old student, Sonia Nasar was returning to her home in Sheikhupura, Punjab when she was allegedly raped by Muhammad Iqrar, 23.

The two families share a yard and Sonia Nasar had to pass Iqrar’s front door to get to her house.

According to Nasar the incident happened on July 7 at 10am, when Iqrar dragged her into his house and raped her.

Sonia’s father heard her cries and rushed to help.

“I was home when the incident took place. Sonia tried to set herself free and shouted for help but we failed to hear her as the doors were closed. However, as we eventually heard her cries we rushed and stormed into Iqrar’s house. Seeing us, Iqrar fled from the scene leaving Sonia in a critical situation,” Nasar Masih told World Watch Monitor .

The First Information Report – a witness statement given by the accuser – was registered at the Saddar police station in Farooqabad.

Investigation Officer Malik Safdar told World Watch Monitor the investigation with Iqrar is ongoing. “Sonia’s medical report has confirmed that she was sexually assaulted. We will show that Iqrar is charged in our report that will be submitted to the court. The most crucial report is the DNA test, and samples have been sent to the forensic laboratory for analysis,” he said.

Despite the availability of such evidence, Nasar Masih does not feel confident the accused will be found guilty.

“I don’t have much hope for justice,” he said. “Even forensic reports can be interfered with, and if Iqrar isn’t jailed he will be free to harass us as their house is so near to ours.

Masih has, meanwhile, requested that the accused and his family use a different entrance to their home.

“We have asked MPs to support our case for Iqrar’s family to use the other door which is on the other side because they threaten us whenever we enter or leave our house. The police initially promised this but then said that it would take time.”

Masih believes his daughter’s accusation will be rubbished. “Efforts are underway to portray Sonia and Iqrar as being in a relationship,” he said.

In the police investigation Iqrar claimed that they had been talking on the phone, which Masih strictly denied.

“Sonia has no cell phone and this is just another effort to mislead people and influence the police investigation,” Masih said.

Investigating Officer Malik said: “We do not value Iqrar’s claim. The medical report has confirmed that she was raped. We have requested the cellular phone company to provide Iqrar’s call data which will be submitted in the court”.

There has been local support for the Masih family.

The opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, founded and led by former national cricket captain, Imran Khan, held a protest on July 12 in front of the Lahore Press Club, about 50 miles from the village where the incident took place.

Punjab Assembly member Shunila Ruth, who organised this protest, said that the suspect has close ties with local parliamentarians from Sheikhupura who belong to the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The protestors claimed that, despite the suspect being arrested there is, therefore, no hope for justice for the Christian family.

“Several human rights activists informed us that things were not improving despite the intervention of Christian parliamentarians, after which the protest was organised to pressure the government to provide justice.”

Pakistan is 6th on the Christian charity Open Doors’ World Watch List 2016 of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to practise Christianity. Christians in Pakistan experience more violence than almost any other country, and an estimated 700 Christian girls and women are abducted every year, and often then raped and forcibly married to Muslims.