Pakistan: Vani-rape survivor being pressured to withdraw her complaint

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By Shamaul Islam – FAISALABAD: The woman declared vani by a panchayat and gang-raped in Muhammadwala, Chiniot, is now being pressured to retract her statement, Chaudhry Umar Daraz Aasi, an activist representing the victim, told the media on Thursday.

He said the police claim that they have arrested the men accused of the gang-rape was false. The men police have taken into custody are influential persons in the area and are being extended protocol by the police, said Aasi.

“The police are pressuring her to withdraw her statement. They are threatening her with dire consequences, including implicating her in false cases, if she refuses,” he said.

Chiniot District Police Officer Rae Munir Ahmad Zia told The Express Tribune that he was personally monitoring the case. He said it would be decided on merit. He said, “The police have not extended protocol to any of those taken into custody. Swabs of samples from those accused and the woman have been sent for forensic tests. The lab report will determine whether the woman was raped or not.”

If proven guilty, the men will be taken to task without discrimination, the DPO said.

The woman, a resident of Mawar Bhattian, was reportedly declared vani in a panchayat ruling against her brother who had married a woman on February 27 without her family’s approval.

Members of the panchayat Gul Sher, Amanullah, Sikandar, Zafar, Anwar and Nasir, among others, had ordered the victim to be married to a brother of the woman her brother had married. She said they had forcibly obtained the her impression on a nikahnama.

Aasi said after the woman refused to accept the panchayat’s ruling several panchayat members forced their way into her father’s house and took her away at gunpoint on March 1. “They [panchayat members] said her refusal was an insult to them and that they would teach her a lesson,” Aasi said.

He said the woman was ‘divorced’ and then handed to her ‘husband’s’ uncle on March 15, who took her to his haveli where he and three others raped her, he said. She was later tied to a tree and her family told that she would be returned after the love-marriage woman was returned.

“Several people in the area went to the haveli and begged him to release her. He let her go after her relatives apologised profusely,” Aasi said.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2014.

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