Protecting the Vulnerable: Responding to the Assault on Mentally Challenged Victim, Asma, and Ensuring Safety and Justice in Pakistan


London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) A horrifying incident of a mentally challenged Christian woman being raped in Muridke while alone in her home has shocked her community.The assailant gained entry through the roof stairs and committed this heinous act.

The police have taken action by registering an FIR against the unknown culprit and have already apprehended three to four individuals suspected of involvement. Additionally, the forensic team has been diligent in collecting evidence to aid in the investigation.

The family of the victim is understandably devastated and seeks justice for their beloved relative.

On the 13th of May, a despicable act of violence occurred in Hal Patiala Dost Muhammad, Muridke, where an unknown assailant entered the home of Asma Bibi, a 35-year-old mentally challenged Christian woman. Asma, who has been mentally impaired since childhood and is unable to walk or speak, was alone in her house at the time of the attack. The perpetrator gained access to the house via the stairs leading to the roof and proceeded to rape Asma while her brother Nasir Iqbal Masih (30 years old) and his wife Sheeza Nasir (22 years old) were at work, having locked the house from the outside.

Upon returning home around 11:30 am, Sheeza Nasir discovered Asma’s clothing soaked in blood while she was cleaning the house after completing her work for a Muslim family. Asma communicated through gestures that someone had descended the stairs and assaulted her. Sheeza immediately contacted Nasir Masih, who works as a cleaner and sweeper at Zafar Arcade, a private market plaza. Nasir, explained what happened:

“The tragic news shattered my heart, and I hurried back to my house without a moment’s delay. Feeling utterly helpless, I swiftly made my way to Saddar Police Station to report the horrifying incident. Thankfully, the police responded promptly, showing remarkable cooperation by promptly dispatching officers to my residence to gather evidence.”

The Station House Officer wasted no time and summoned both the forensic and medical teams to conduct thorough investigations. The forensic experts meticulously collected Asma Bibi’s blood-soaked clothes and the bedsheet as crucial pieces of evidence. Subsequently, the police formally registered a First Information Report (FIR) under section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code against the unidentified perpetrator, bearing FIR No. 811/24.

In a commendable display of diligence, the police apprehended three individuals from the neighboring area who were suspected to be involved in the heinous crime. Nasir, added:

“The wheels of justice have been set in motion, and I fervently hope that the culprits are swiftly brought to account for their reprehensible actions.”

On the 14th of May, the BACA team paid a visit to the family and had a detailed conversation with Nasir Iqbal, who shared with us the immense tragedy that has afflicted their lives. Nasir, employed as a sweeper at Zafar Arcade market plaza, recounted the distressing events that unfolded. His wife, Sheeza Nasir, similarly works diligently, undertaking cleaning and sweeping duties at a local Muslim family’s residence. Despite their humble circumstances, they reside in a rented house and strive tirelessly to provide for their family’s needs.

Nasir expressed to BACA:

“We lock the main door from the outside when we leave for work every day,” Nasir emphasized, highlighting their routine security measures.

The gravity of the situation weighed heavily on Nasir as he remarked, “We never imagined that such a brutal act could befall my innocent sister.”

Despite being the only Christian family in their street, Nasir expressed reluctance to cast suspicion on their Muslim neighbors, acknowledging, “Our neighbors in the surrounding area are all Muslims. We haven’t accused anyone because we lack evidence. The police have taken action by apprehending several Muslim men whom they suspect might be involved.”

In a concerning turn of events, Nasir disclosed that certain Muslim families in the vicinity are applying pressure to expedite the release of their men from police custody, asserting their innocence. Despite these assertions, Nasir firmly reiterated that he has not implicated anyone from the neighborhood. He affirmed his stance of non-interference in the police investigation, emphasizing his commitment to allowing the authorities to conduct their inquiries unhindered.

In their quest for justice, Nasir fervently appealed to BACA for legal assistance, recognizing the essential requirement for professional support in seeking justice for Asma Bibi. It’s important to note that in Pakistan, trials for murder and rape typically fall under civil cases, placing the burden on families to procure their legal representation. This highlights the critical importance of obtaining legal aid to navigate the intricate legal proceedings and advocate effectively for the victim and her family. We have launched an appeal for the family, and you can contribute to their cause by donating (here).  We also want to fund a permanent safe house so that we are able to move threatened families away immediately while securing a longer-term rental.

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, said:

“This was a brutal and traumatic attack for the extremely vulnerable victim and her family.

“Their plea for justice resonates deeply, and it is imperative that the authorities continue their efforts to ensure that the perpetrator is swiftly brought to justice.

“Such acts of violence cannot be tolerated in any society, and it is essential that the victim and her family receive the support and closure they deserve during this incredibly challenging time.”

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