A poor Christian couple is seeking justice after their Muslim landlord allegedly assaulted them for demanding the return of the security deposit they had given him for the rented property, the family said.
According to Saleem Inayat, he, his wife Chanda, and their children were worshipping in their house in Peshawar on June 1, when their landlord Muhammad Iqbal cut off the electricity supply on the pretext that they were listening to hymns on the TV. When the couple objected, Iqbal assaulted them with a metal plier he was using to cut the power supply, resulting in serious injuries to them.
“We rented the house from Iqbal in January 2021 for a period of two years and gave him Rs500,000 as security deposit as per the tenancy agreement.
“At the time of the contract, we were unaware that the property did not have a separate electricity meter and gas supply. Moreover, the overall condition of the house was very poor but we continued to live there as we had already signed the agreement with Iqbal,” said Inayat, who works as a junior clerk.
Inayat said that their two-year contract with Iqbal ended in Jan 2023 following which they demanded the return of their security deposit from him.
“We passed the time in Iqbal’s house with great difficulty but when our agreement reached its term, we decided to vacate the premises. When I demanded our security deposit, Iqbal refused to return the money and started harassing us on various pretexts.
“On the day of the incident, Iqbal disconnected our electricity supply and when we protested against it, he attacked me and my wife, hitting us mercilessly with a metal plier,” he said, adding that he received injuries to his head and other parts of the body while his wife also suffered bruises.
Inayat claimed that though the couple had filed a complaint against Iqbal, the local police have not taken any action against him.
“My children are suffering from mental trauma after the incident and the police’s inaction is exacerbating our ordeal. We are poor Christians and have no one else to turn to for administration of justice,” he said.
Repeated attempts were made to contact Muhammad Iqbal for his account of the events but he did not respond.
Costs and lack of resources are the most prominent barriers for religious minorities in accessing justice in Pakistan, according to the Karachi-based Legal Aid Society.
“Religious minorities were less confident about attaining a fair trial compared to their Muslim counterparts,” the legal group stated in its 2021 Legal Needs Assessment Survey. “They foremost identified themselves as not affluent and powerful, and therefore not possessing the law to seek protection within its ambit, nor the law taking ownership of them. Consequently, they seldom approach the judicial system to seek justice.”
In April, a Christian housecleaner in Sialkot was beaten and illegally confined for a week by her Muslim employers after she tried to leave her job due to pregnancy.
Asma Gulfam, a 28-year-old maid in the Paka Ghara area of Sialkot district, said she had worked for Huda Adnan for five years. Gulfam said that in early April she informed Adnan that she was five months pregnant and could not continue working due to a medical condition, but Adnan said she had to remain.
On April 18, Adnan accused her of stealing 1 million rupees that had been left in a bathroom some days prior, Gulfam said. When she denied it, Gulfam said, Adnan dragged her into a room where a police assistant sub-inspector, Ijaz Ahmed, and three other policemen were waiting with Adnan’s husband, Mian Adnan.
“As soon as they saw me, the policemen led by Ijaz started hurling abuses and curses at me,” Gulfam said. “They threatened to tear my clothes if I did not admit to the alleged theft, but when I refused, they pulled my hair and started beating me up mercilessly. During the torture, Ijaz also tried to pull my nails.”
They ignored her cries that she was innocent, Gulfam said. She began bleeding from the uterus due to the blows to her abdominal area, but the policemen and her employer’s husband continued hitting her, Gulfam said.
Gulfam said that as soon as she was able, she went to police, reporting the brutality and illegal confinement to a Sialkot District police officer on May 10. The District Police Officer ordered an investigation, but officers dismissed her complaint without even questioning her, she said.