LAHORE: The family of two Christian sisters who were killed a month after their alleged abduction by three suspects refuses to accept the police finding, aimed at victim blaming.

The bodies of Abida (23) and Sajida (25), residents of Makhan Colony, Kahna Kachha, were buried on Thursday, almost one-and-a-half months after they went missing.

Their mother, Rani, last saw her daughters on the night of Nov 26 when they went for shopping together but did not return home.

On Dec 11, the decomposed body of a woman (later identified as Sajida) was found from the Rohi drain. Her throat had been slit but the body was so decomposed that it was hard to even identify her.

“After I saw her body in that state, I began to dread the worst for Abida too,” says Rani.

On Jan 4, Abida’s body was found floating in the Sue-e-Asal drain behind the Toor village.

The women’s husbands and their children – five in all – are shattered and traumatised. The eldest is a boy in the second grade, the youngest is still nursing, says Rani.

In a press conference on Friday, DIG Investigations Shariq Jamal had announced that Naeem Bhatti, the main suspect, Mumtaz and Sajjad had confessed to killing the two sisters. They quoted the suspects saying Sajida and Abida were blackmailing them on the basis of some objectionable videos.

According to police, Naeem and Mumtaz worked in the same factory with Sajida and had relations with her and Abida.

“Apparently, the sisters had relations with Naeem and Mumtaz and had made a video to get money from them,” said DIG Jamal.

“They had taken some money from them and were demanding more.”

However, the victims’ family refuses to believe the police probe findings, terming it an attempt to blame the victims. Rani and her sisters, the girls’ aunts, say there is nothing far from the truth. They are surprised at police believing the killers’ statements.

“They were abducted and they might have also been raped,” says the grieving mother.

“These men had been bullying my daughters to accept Islam and marry them. We want justice.”

She says the police had not investigated the case properly and they began to do so after the media attention.

“Sajida and Abida were abducted and we complained to police that night,” says the victims’ sister-in-law. She says Naeem himself had gone to police to clear his name in the case and to inform them that one of the victims had taken money from him, however, police did not interrogate him. He went to police with his lawyers three days later and changed his statement, saying he didn’t even know these girls.

“The weight of two coffins is too much to bear,” says Sarfraz Mughal, a community leader.

“We won’t go even one step back until these criminals are given their due. This is not a problem of just the people of Makhan Colony. It’s the entire country’s issue now that our daughters and sisters are attacked and killed like this.”

Mughal acknowledges police were helpful. The angle of forced conversion remains unsubstantiated but Mughal says that Naeem wanted Sajida to develop physical relations with him and upon her refusal, he abducted and killed her.

Abida was mere ‘collateral damage’.

There is an underlying fear among the people of the locality. Was this a one off incident, or is it the work of a gang? Is there more to follow? Are the women of the area safe?

The MNA of the area, Rana Mubashir of the PML-N, visited the area.

“The women are not safe and we all know it. The family must not step back from pursuing the case before the court and I will personally make sure that it gets all the legal aid.”

Speaking to Dawn, he says the bill on forced conversions is still under discussion and it should be passed as soon as possible.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2021

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