Shahzad Masih told the school principal in Lahore that he would not leave her office until the official admitted Masih’s daughter had been raped at the school that day, but soon security guards arrived and pushed him and his wife out of the building, he said.
His 8-year-old daughter was shaking and screaming in pain when she returned home from school that day, June 22, her uniform spotted with blood, he said.
“She did not utter a word all afternoon and just kept crying and screaming in pain,” Masih said. “After much asking, my daughter told her mother that she had been raped at her school. We rushed to the Sanjan Nagar Trust School where my daughter is a class-three student. Rather than listening to our grievance, school principal Farzana Kausar and another Muslim teacher, Tehmina, outright refused to admit that she had been raped on the school premises.”
Masih, a Christian who works at Lahore General Hospital, said his daughter told him a male teacher took her into a bathroom and assaulted her. When the school officials refused to listen to Masih, the family went to the Nishtar Town Police Station, but officers refused to register a complaint and sent him home, he said.
They returned to the police station with influential people from the neighborhood and continued to be shunned, he said. Officers told him to settle his complaint with school officials.
“We again approached the school management, but they were very hostile and told us that we should not involve the school in the case,” Masih said. “Later they alleged that she had been raped by a class-seven Christian student.”
When the girl told her teacher that another teacher had assaulted her, her Muslim female teacher and other teachers told her not to name the assailant and threatened to expel her from school, Masih said. The teachers told the girl that she should instead name a Christian boy named Joel as the culprit, he said.
“We then contacted Joel’s family, but they told us that their son was not even present in school on the day of the incident,” Masih said.
The family contacted the administration and demanded to see the attendance register, which proved Joel was absent that day, he said.
“When the principal and other administration officials saw that their lie to falsely accuse the Christian boy had been exposed, they turned violent and started hurling threats and curses at us,” Masih said. “We again turned to the police, but they too were very hostile. It became clear to us that the police had been influenced by the school’s administration and were biased towards us.”
Several officers at the police station pressured the family to withdraw the complaint and settle the case privately.
“They told us that we were poor Christians and could not rival the power of the school’s management,” Masih told Morning Star News.
The family filed a report with the sessions court, which ordered police to register a First Information Report (FIR) on the attack. Police finally registered FIR No. 2184/21 against the school’s administration on July 2, but officers did not take action against school administrators, Masih said.
“They are continuing to pressure us to name Joel as the alleged rapist and are also not cooperating in carrying out a detailed medical examination of the child,” he said.
His daughter’s initial medical report confirmed that she was raped, but police have refused to investigate school staff members, Masih said.
“We have been informed by some sources that the management is covering the incident to protect the Muslim teacher who raped my daughter,” he said.
The impoverished Christian said that the family had repeatedly tried to contact the provincial minister for minorities, Ijaz Alam Augustine, without success.
“Our pleas for justice are falling on deaf ears,” Masih said. “The school management is protecting the rapist, and the police are colluding with them. Who should we look to for justice?”
School principal Kausar refused to comment on the case. Assistant Sub-Inspector Ghulam Raza Kazmi of the Nishtar Town police also declined to comment.
So far, however, the victim’s family has not received no cooperation from school officials or police. Sanjan Nagar Public Education Trust, a non-profit organization overseeing the schools, has a board of trustees that includes several influential philanthropists.
“One cannot imagine my pain and agony every time I see my daughter, who is still reeling from the trauma of rape,” Masih said. “Our repeated visits to the police are not bearing any results, and I don’t think she will get justice from this system.”
CHILD RAPE INCREASE
Last year eight children were abused every day in Pakistan in one form or the other, with 51 percent of the victims girls and 49 percent boys, according to Sahil, a Non-Governmental Organization working for child rights.
A Sahil report, “Cruel Numbers 2020,” states that there was a 4 percent increase in child abuse cases last year over 2019. As many as 2,960 major crimes against children were reported in Pakistan in 2020, according to the report, based on statistics from 84 national and regional newspapers on crimes against children, including child sexual abuse, abduction, missing children and child marriages.
The report found 787 rape cases, 985 instances of sodomy, 89 of pornography and child sexual abuse and 80 of murder after sexual abuse. Cases of abduction numbered 834, missing children were 345 and child marriages totaled 119.
The data showed that more than 80 percent of the abusers were known to the children. In most of the cases, the abusers were either acquaintances (1,780) or service providers (109) such as teachers, shopkeepers and drivers. In 91 cases, family members and relatives were involved, and neighbors in 92 cases. In only 468 cases were the perpetrators strangers.
Children most vulnerable to abuse belonged to the age group of 6-15 years, but children from newborn to 5 years old were also sexually abused.