Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - "I was beaten and humiliated in broad daylight just because I belong to the Christian community. I will fight for justice and put the culprits behind bars, so that other poor Christians like me can be spared this in the future," said Alishba Bibi, who spoke to AsiaNews about the brutal attack against her by a powerful Muslim family.
Alishba Bibi, a 30-year-old mother of four, lives in Rana Town colony, in the District of Sheikhupura, in Punjab (Pakistan's most populous province), was brutally assaulted, dragged into the street, her clothes torn off, following a trivial dispute.
"Anti-Christian harassment is common place in the area," she said. "No one dares to oppose Mushtaq Gondal; he has close ties to politicians and criminals. However, I will not step back; I will fight until I get justice."
The attack took place on 19 November. As she made her way home with her daughter after picking her up from school, Alishba Bibi was verbally attacked by a woman, Rani Bibi, from a prominent local Muslim family.
As the dispute unfolded, the Muslim woman called her two sons, Muneeb and Mubeen Gondal, for help. Armed with sticks, the two young men unleashed their fury against the Christian woman. After tearing her clothes off, and dragging her into the street, they took a mobile phone and 10,000 rupees from her purse, leaving her unconscious on the ground.
Two local women, Shamim Bibi and Rehana Shaukat, rescued the Christian woman and brought her to the home of one of the two for she got some first aid.
Determined to get justice, Alishba Bibi - with the help of Aslam Parvaiz Sahotra, vice-president of the Human Liberation Commission Pakistan (HLCP) - filed a complaint with police in Ferozwala. However, the officer in charge of the station refused to take the charges seriously. Downplaying the incident, he limited himself with taking a statement.
The father of two men, Mushtaq Gondal, is an influential figure in the area, feared even by the police who released the accused soon after their arrest.
The two were set to appear in court for a pre-bail hearing last Friday, but the additional session judge for Sheikhupura district, Younis Aziz, adjourned the proceedings to today. It was not immediately clear whether Muneeb and Mubeen Gondal would stand trial.
Meanwhile Alishba Bibi lives under protection, in the offices of the HLCP, for fear of retaliation or revenge.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Aslam Parvaiz Sahotra points the finger at the police, who instead of seeking justice have been conniving with the accused.
"In order to defend the accused, the police produced a false report alleging that Alishba stabbed Mubeen Gondal," he said.
"This is the fifth incident of its kind in the area, at the hands of influential people oppressing poor and helpless Christians."