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Sexual assault on minor: Sanghar rape victim still searching for justice

KARACHI: “I (feel that I) have died, and with me, so have my mother and father,” says Z, who was allegedly gang-raped by four men in Khipro town in Sanghar district last September.

Z was 14 and a student of Class 8 when she was allegedly raped by the men, who reportedly not only filmed the incident but also posted a video of it on the internet.

Months after an FIR was registered in Khipro, the communities involved remain on the brink of confrontation. The case has developed into a volatile ethnic issue, as Z’s family (Bhaiyo) is Sindhi and the accused men belong to the Qaimkhani community. Sindh-based nationalist parties supported the victim’s family and demanded for justice to be served, while the police confirmed that the accused were guilty.

The FIR states that the incident occurred when Z went to a friend’s house after school, she was allegedly drugged over there and then subsequently raped at the friend’s house.

The heinous act has allegedly been committed by her friend’s brother and his three friends. Z was later found unconscious at the doorstep of her own house two days after the incident.

The victim’s uncle Dr Mohammad Amin, who filed the FIR, told Express News, “The incident is very unfortunate. I have never heard of or seen such a case. We are poor people and we appeal to human rights groups and Muslims. Such incident should not have happened in a Muslim country.”

The Qaimkhani community says that if the men are guilty they should be punished, but the community’s women should not be dragged into the case. The victim has named the three sisters of one of the accused — Danish Mahmood — in the FIR as well.

While the four accused are in jail, the Mahmood family believe the women have been named as a score-settler. The women’s brother Minhaj Mahmood contacted The Express Tribune to provide documentary evidence of their stand.

The Mahmood family claims that not only had the three accused women never met the victim, two of them were not even in Khipro on September 28 when the crime was allegedly committed. They say that one of the sisters, Tehreem, was in Tando Allahyar, where she lives with her in-laws. Another, Nayab, was attending classes at the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences in Jamshoro that day. Minhaj claims his youngest sister Farasat and the victim did not know each other because they went to different schools and studied in different classes.

He told The Express Tribune that the two families have no known enmity but the Sindhi and Muhajir communities in Khipro have clashed previously over a murder case.

He also claimed his sisters are in physical danger. “Nayab faces threats of kidnapping at her university,” he said. “Our father has to accompany her.”

Tehreem, Nayab and Farasat obtained protective bail from the high court after being named in the FIR. Minhaj said it was difficult to hire a lawyer because no one wanted to take up the case because of the supposed political fallout as well as personal security concerns.

However, the Khipro Police say that they carried out investigations without any undue pressure from any side. The Khipro Police say they are “certain that the men committed the crime”.

The case is currently being heard at a sessions court in Sanghar. The accused were reportedly shifted to Nara jail in Hyderabad after the district jail refused to house them, citing security concerns.

The lawyer for the complainant, Qalandar Bux Laghari, has submitted an application for the case to be transfered to the Anti Terrorism Court in Nawabshah.

At the most recent hearing in December, the accused were not produced in court by the police and the next hearing has been set for January 26.

“The accused are not being produced by the police because they belong to an influential family,” Laghari told The Express Tribune.

“This is another attempt to delay the outcome of case,” he added.

“My parents and I have been wronged. I want justice,” says Z. “They (the culprits) should be given the harshest punishment so that they never do this again,” the victim added.

Source: The Express Tribune

Date:1/9/2011

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