PAKISTAN: Taliban threaten the family of a gang rape victim, her lawyers are illegally detained and tortured by the perpetrators
Police officials accused of having, along with a soldier, gang-raped a 16 year-old girl for one year are now targeting the lawyers working with the victim. At the time of writing, four of her lawyers were abducted, kept in illegal detention, tortured and threatened to quit the case on different occasions. The resoluteness of the victim, her family and her lawyers to fight for justice and claim their rights survives intact.
A 16 year old girl, Miss Uzma Ayub, Tehsil Takht-e-Nasrati of Karak district, Khyber Pakhtoon Kha province, was repeatedly raped by an army soldier and police officials while being held in their captivity for almost one year. She manages to escape from the captivity on September 19, 2011and stated before the court that she was raped by the army soldier and the police officers. She is now pregnant from by rapists. For more information, please see our previous urgent appeal in the case: AHRC-UAC-226-2011
On October 29, Mr. Irfan Khattak, the lawyer of Miss Uzma, was arrested and tortured by Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) of Takhte Nurati police station, one of the rapists. According to the news published in 'Daily TheNews', the ASI chased his car and stopped it at Inzar Chowk, Takhte Nusrati tehsil at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The police officer took out a copy of the Holy Quran and asked him to take oath on the Quran that from now on he would neither contest the case nor assist the victim’s family in any way. ''Hakim Khan first asked me to quit the case. After my refusal, he along with his guard beat me up and then arrested me,'' Irfan Khattak told.
He further reported that when he refused to accept his demand, the ASI took him to the Takht-e-Nusrati Police Station and tortured him there. The lawyer said that the ASI released him after the visit of Karak Bar Association President Jan-e-Alam and Takht-e-Nusrati Sub-divisional Bar President Javed Akhtar to the police station. The lawyer categorically said that he would pursue the case even at the cost of his life and refused to bow down before the torture of the policeman.
A rights-based organization, the Civil Society of Pakhtunkha, reports that earlier the police succeeded to force the victim’s first lawyer, Afsar Khan advocate, to quit the case. Afsar Khan was mentally and physically tortured into abandoning the case. The police are now trying to use the same tactics to force advocate Irfan Khattak out of the case.
In addition, two other lawyers, Mr. Javed Akhtar, the divisional president of the local Bar Association and Mr. Suleman Ghazi, advocate, were harassed by the police and ASI Hakeem Khan. The police threatened both lawyers of dire consequences should they pursue the case. Once more, these lawyers stood up to the intimidation and threats of the police and the perpetrators are now under pressure. Mr. Idrees Kamal, the spokesperson of Khyber Pakhtunkha civil society organisations, says that the government is either reluctant or criminally negligent in pursuing and announcing actions as per the recommendations of a three member inquiry committee set up to investigate that case. Orders of arrest on the accused seem unlikely to be issued. Despite rumours that the accused policemen have been suspended, they appeared in full uniform during the session court hearings. They remain in a position to pressurize the victim and her lawyers.
In addition, the Taliban also entered the case and supported the perpetrators. They support ASI Hakeem Khan, in particular, who is alleged to be a Taliban informer in the area. He himself claims that he has the patronage of Mangal Bagh, a Taliban leader wanted in many cases of terrorism, bomb blasts and killings of law enforcement personnel. Some Taliban belonging to the Wazir tribes approached the family, seeking for a settlement. They said that Hakim Khan is an important member and supporter of their group and threatened the family with dire consequences if they refused to sit with them for negotiations. They also threatened to kidnap the younger brothers of Uzma and Alamzeb. The family is presently under tremendous pressure and suffering from deep trauma. They fear for the lives of the younger siblings who have stopped from attending school.
The case of Uzma is the expression of a total collapse of the state and the rule of law, bending before the Taliban and the militant religious groups who are behind the rapists. The perpetrators are very influential and in a very strong position and the provincial government does not dare arresting them and providing protection to victim and her family.
Akbar Ali Shah, Programme Manager Juvenile Justice, KPK, has written a letter to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Kohat range, informing him of the threats to their lawyers and the victims’ family members. On October 26, the DIG instructed the local police to provide protection to the perpetrators, but till date, no protection has been provided to the victim or her lawyers.
The impotent provincial government is to blame for not initiating any action against the perpetrators. The perpetrators are still wearing their uniforms and continue to serve at the police station despite the government’s announcement that they were suspended. The perpetrators exploit the ineptness of the government, unable to provide protection to its citizens. A high level committee for inquiry was formed by the provincial government under the leadership of the Home secretary. That committee recommended to conduct a DNA test of the victim’s baby and of the perpetrators and to arrest the perpetrators, in particular the three police officers, including the station house officer (SHO), a Sub Inspector and an Assistant Sub Inspector belonging to Takhte Nusrati police station. However the provincial government has not taken any step to turn those recommendations into concrete action, protecting the perpetrators and denying the victim’s fundamental right to redress.
By sheer negligence, the government has granted impunity to the perpetrators, cultivating the idea that keeping a minor girl in captivity and gang-raping her for one year does not carry any legal consequences. Such an ineptness contributes to the decay of the rule of law in the country and exposes women to increasing sexual violence.
The government must immediately provide official protection to the lawyers, the victim and her family members. The government must take steps to arrest the perpetrators without delay. It should promptly abide by the recommendations issued by the high level committee for inquiry. Should the government fail to act diligently in that matter, it would abdicate its responsibility to ensure law and order in the country and would be the sole responsible if more violence were to occur to the victim and her lawyers.