In an attempt to shed light on a recent gang rape incident in Karachi, Tasneem Kauser, a renowned political and social activist who is the survivor’s mother, held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.
Speaking to media representatives, Tasneem, along with the survivor, her daughter Souzanne, shared details of their ordeal since the June 26 gang rape incident. She said her daughter, who worked at the Holy Trinity Church as a guide, was sexually assaulted by three men, including a bishop.
“On the pretext of an event involving a Chinese delegation, my daughter was taken to a guest house where she was sexually assaulted by three men, Waqar Hussain, Sadiq Daniel and Zafar Iqbal. When we went to register an FIR at the Gizri police station, the policemen refused to cooperate and, later, filed a ‘defective’ FIR. Two witnesses had recorded statements confirming my daughter’s presence at the guest house, but the ASI tampered with their accounts,” she said.
Tasneem added that after immense efforts, they were able to reach out to Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and a case was registered.
However, Daniel and Iqbal were able to acquire bail from a Quetta court.
She said court proceedings have commenced, with two hearings already convened, but despite a lapse of over two months, the required medical procedures were yet to be performed.
She said that of the three perpetrators, only Hussain, whose interim bail plea had been rejected, was produced in court.
The other two, despite the Quetta court’s bail duration having expired, were still walking scot-free.
“After we approached the courts, the perpetrators offered to reconcile and when we rejected their propositions, I received death threats which resulted in assaults on my life and property. We went to the police again on August 20, but the investigation officer, Asghar Ali, didn’t take the matter seriously,” said Souzanne.
“My brother, who is a drug addict, has been taken by the group and we do not know if he is being forced to release statements against me on social media. I was told that I would be killed under honour killing for bringing shame to my family, similar to the fate faced by Qandeel Baloch,” she said.
Souzanne further narrated that the police had refused to take her clothes as evidence, which proved their disinterest in her case: “There are many people who are questioning my motives for raising a voice against a body highly regarded by the Christian community; but I want to ask if the bishop, who is supposed to be a guiding spirit, is considered infallible?”
“Donning religious attire doesn’t give anyone the license to harass and assault others. I got married to a Muslim man in 2009 and I also have a son, but I am yet to understand how my religious identity or the information about family is kept alongside the ordeal I’ve been through.”
“These men filmed the whole episode but I didn’t give up, because even if we assume I am just hurling allegations, I ask them to be arrested and produced in court so a decision can be reached. If the authorities are interested in proofs, then I am willing to cooperate because I want them to be unmasked,” she said.
Another woman, Sajal, a victim of a forced marriage, also spoke of her harrowing experience with Daniel.
She said she had gone to Daniel to discuss her plight when she was asked to give up her two-year-old son for a divorce: “I decided to support Souzanne because when I went to Daniel and Hussain for help in my case, they asked me to give up my son and be ‘free’. They also took notice of my physical attributes and ‘advised’ me to use them for their ‘cause’.”
The lawyer representing the aggrieved party, Advocate Yaqoob, said that the third hearing, set for September 9, would help in gauging the seriousness of the legal proceedings.
Tasneem said, “These people have several cases against them but they are very powerful and on good terms with government officials. Only recently, they had invited the governor to an inauguration at YMCA. However, we hope that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah will take notice of our plight and take action against them before other women are targeted.”
“We appeal to the government to arrest all the accused and help us get justice,” she said. “If we do not get justice, we will protest in front of the Sindh Assembly and also the National Assembly.”
Earlier this year, in March, a 12-year-old girl gang rape survivor from Ghaggar Phatak had held a press conference with her mother and maternal uncle at KPC to appeal for justice.
Her appeals to the prime minister and the chief justice of Pakistan had, however, fallen on deaf ears as her case was never solved and the perpetrators roam free to this day.