Also, latest news on Asia Bibi appeal against her death sentence
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
SAMBRIAL, PUNJAB PROVINCE, PAKISTAN (ANS – February 7, 2017) – For what appears to be two weeks too late, Pakistani police have finally registered a murder case for a slain 12-year-old Christian girl.
Sambrial Police had initially closed the case stating that Tania Mariyam had jumped into the Upper Chenab Canal on January 23, 2016, despite evidence of poisoning and rape.
But now, following international pressure from social media activists who helped the UK-based British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) highlight the murder of the Christian schoolgirl, who had apparently been drugged, raped and murdered, has led to a police retreat from their original claim that she had committed suicide.
Tania’s dead body was found in the canal two weeks ago and the family had fought a fairly lonely campaign for action until the BPCA intervened.
“The delay in registering the case means police may have let the killer escape justice, a common theme in a nation in which the rule of law is at its lowest ebb,” said a BPCA spokesperson.
BPCA has been counselling and supporting the family and has also helped with a solicitor. Tania Mariyam’s brother, Johnson Gill, with the support of the solicitor, were finally able to convince the local police to register a murder case under section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Now, if caught, the murderer could face death by hanging, a punishment considered equal and fair under the Islamic law of Qisas.
According to the newly registered First Incident Report (FIR), Johnson had dropped his 12-year-old sister at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, in Sialkot.
Later, he received a phone call that her dead body had been found in Upper Chenab Canal (UCC) but despite police insistence of it being suicide, Johnson and his other sister Sania, refused to believe their confident sister Tania would have ever done such a thing.
“The grieving family have submitted a petition in Sialkot Magistrates court on February 6, 2016, seeking exhumation of Tania’s grave to prove the poisoning took place and to search for any clue that could lead to the apprehension of the murderer,” the spokesperson also told the ASSIST News Service.
“Judicial magistrate, Shagufta Sabir, had summoned Sambrial police to bring a complete record of their primary investigation to the court and expressed grave concerns at the failure to recognize clear evidence and a lack of quality to the police investigation. He ordered the initiation of a murder investigation by Sambrial Police.”
After the hearing, the girl’s father, Nadeem Gill, spoke with the BPCA and said: “There was a disgusting police cover-up and I fear that they have colluded with the murderer and know more than they are letting on. They do not care about Christians.
“They have had two weeks to investigate and remain unable to find out any clue to resolve the murder. My daughter could have been killed by a student or teacher at the school but the school is refusing to provide the footage from the CCTV cameras to me.”
He added: “Please, Please Shabaz Sharif [Punjab Chief Minister] help me find the murderer of my daughter!”
Although the girl attended this Christian-owned school, the majority of the students are Muslim as, according to BPCA, they are more able to pay the high costs for schooling at the establishment. A large percentage of the teachers are also Muslim and both teachers and children in the school have regularly complained about harassment and bullying from respective colleagues.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: “In a rare case of international media support for a Pakistani Christian persecution case, we have seen over 250,000 hits on our website from people who were shocked at Pakistan’s brutality to minorities.
“This support including 24,000 shares by concerned Christians, has led to the opening of a murder case. I am sure a turnaround like this otherwise, should not be possible.
“I am worried that the severe delays will mean that much of the evidence has been lost, especially with regards to the toxins in the decaying corpse of Tania.
“Even then, we have agreed to pay for the exhumation of Tania’s body and an autopsy. A decision on whether Tania’s body can be dug up will be made on the February 10th, and we call on people to pray and petition for permission.”
BPCA is accepting donations to raise money to help pay for the exhumation and autopsy of Tania’s corpse and ongoing legal costs. If you would like to help please click here: https://britishpakistanichristians.worldsecuresystems.com/donate.
Good News for Asia Bibi?
Finally, there is possibly some good news for Asia Bibi, the Pakistani mother-of-five who was been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy. It is that, during a private meeting with Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, the First Minister at the Pakistan High Commission in London, has assured Chowdhry that the Supreme Court of Pakistan is “likely to fix a date for the appeal case against blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi before the end of March this year.”
Asia Bibi has been on death row for seven years and is forced to live in isolation for her own safety.
For more information, please go to: http://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/.
Photo captions: 1) Tania Mariyam. 2) Police finally register case for the slain 12-year-old girl. 3) UK protestors who recently turned out in the rain in London to show their support for Asia Bibi. 4) Dan with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California. He is the author of some 45 books, and has been given a special award from the BPCA for his long-standing reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
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