Photo Caption: Saima was sent home after being beaten and kicked at her employers' house
Following being falsely accused of theft by her Muslim employer, a Christian domestic worker Saima (24), and her young female cousin Sinaha (11) were held for several days and tortured by male police officers who disrobed in front of the innocent girls, beat, and kicked them. The older maid endured a harrowing ordeal of being hung by her arms, having boiling water poured down her throat in order to try to get her to confess something she did not do while her mother - who had also been beaten - was forced to listen outside. A pre-dated FIR was not filed until the media started asking questions. Almost two weeks later Saima was taken to a hospital where they gave her two injections and forced her to put her thumb print on a paper before taking both to jail.
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R-L Mushtaq Masih (Sinaha's father) Niaz Masih (Saima's father) and Rehana Masih (Saima's mother) at Chak Jhumra District Faisalabad
Not long after Rehana told her daughter's employers that Saima (24) was getting married, a horrifying incident happened at the Chak Jumara RB 192 Rasool Nagar, a location to where her daughter commuted daily by bicycle which was about a one-hour distance from her home.
Saima had worked for the family for three years during which there were two previous incidents where the wife falsely accused Saima and later retracted her spurious accusation when Saima prepaid to quit. The owner's wife would say that she had made a mistake and the items were not missing and begged her to stay. The homeowner's wife engaged in a similar ploy when she insisted Saima's mother delay her daughter's wedding until March - a whole month after it was planned. It seemed like they either could not do without her or that they did not like change, but as the weeks unfolded over the holidays, they showed that they had other plans. After Saima's mother informed the owners wife that they were making preparations for Saima’s marriage for all intents and purposes she became disposable to them. Domestic servants are treated like slaves in Pakistan and ostensibly treated like household property. Vulnerable girls and women find themselves in a dangerous and precarious vocation where they are often abused and mistreated.
Seizing on her absence over Christmas, the homeowners found a way to benefit from Saima's departure after all, when they later contrived a story accusing her, her cousin and her brothers of stealing 35 tola of gold. The FIR was predated to the 27th of December - despite the fact her brothers were working on location at their jobs and there was nothing unusual that happened on the 27th. The FIR was phrased as an assumption of what happened with no verifiable facts.
The home owner is Rana Saif Ulah Khanwho who owns a paper factory and is a high profile, influential person.
The girls are being accused of stealing gold from their owner on the eve of 27th the of Dec 2018, which weighed about 35 tola total worth is 1900000 Pak-Rupees (£10595) Saima was earning 7k from her job and she has one sister name Siara (22 yrs) who does stitch-work from home, 5 brothers all work in Wapda City and two of them are married with two children each. All are living in the same joint-family household with their parents in a rented house,
Following the Christmas holiday, Saima (24 yrs) took along to her work place, her young female cousin Sinaha (11 yrs) who was visiting her family. Her cousin followed her around the house all day on the 27th December to keep her company but was not engaged as a housekeeper in the home. In Pakistan it is common to bring a younger relative with you to work when you are working as a maid.
The parents of Rana - Rana is the owner of the house - disclosed that Saima had Christmas holidays from work on 25th and 26th December. They said Saima was back to work on 27th of December and she worked the whole day and again worked until the evening of the 28th. This testimony is important to note as you see later when the police register their false FIR for the 27th of December.
The facts of the case are as follows: Saima was off work for Christmas on the 25th and 26th
On the 27th Saima returned to work bringing along with her cousin who was visiting from another village. On the 28th – Saima’s mother (Rehana) was called by wife of house owner to look for missing jewelry she searched for the jewelry but was unable to find the valuables during her search. The owner repeatedly explained to Rehana while the search was underway that she and her daughter were not suspects, "We are not blaming you for anything we just want you to check along with us" – it seemed like they were setting them up for an accusation. On the 29th – Saima went to work and in the evening, she went home – in the evening she was called back by the home owner who called Rehana and Saima to the home and locked them in a room The accusers called Aunt Nasreen – Rehana’s sister-in-law had had been coerced into trying to convince the pair into admitting to stealing the gold or to say that the young girl had stolen it, stating it would be better for the whole family to accept a crime had been committed. The husband and sons of Rehana were not aware of the escalating situation.
The girls declared their innocence and denied taking anything from the family so the police were called. Despite their protestations of the two accused the family did not ask or inquire into who else may have taken the gold reported as missing.
A FIR report is necessary for an insurance claim and given the cost, BPCA believes the homeowners should be investigated for possible insurance fraud or attempt to fraudulently obtain money through deceit or exhortation.
When police arrived on the 29th they took Saima into custody. The 6-7 police officers then took Rehana to her home then beat her - pulling her hair, punching and slapping her – as they dragged her from room to room while they conducted a thorough search of her home. Though they found no evidence they booked the 11-year-old niece Sinaha who was implicated in the crime, and was present at the home at the time of the raid. While Rehana was being beaten other officers held back the surprised male family members, who were unaware of the issue till this point, from coming to her aid which has caused the family great trauma. This date is the day police were present in the neighbourhood.
Concern has been raised about the nature of the investigation. The police did not become involved until the evening of the 29th December however a First Incident Report (FIR) was dated for the 27th December after it was penned some time in January.
The Saima and Sinaha were released and recalled to the police station for investigation and interrogation every day over the next 13 days. Policemen harassed them, tortured them and were responsible for their search, arrest, and incarceration as no women police officers were available till many weeks later - breaking Pakistani policing guidelines.
The chronology of events continues below:
On 29th they took Rehana, Saima and young Sinaha – to the police station where they interrogated them for about 3 hours and later asked them to go home. They asked then to come back at 9 am on the 30th. During the interrogation intimidation tactics were employed such as, hair puling, kicking them in the stomach, slapping them and the policemen disrobed in front of the woman in an attempt to frighten them of a potential sexual assault and then changed their clothes. Again, they were individually interrogated using every trick in the book for 3 hours and allowed to return home. 1st of January they were called early in the morning, investigated individually and as a group and then told to return home.
2nd of January when the three ladies: Rehana, Saima, and Sinaha, went to the police station and Saima and Sinaha were held in custody. Rehana followed along hoping that her presence would prevent any wrongdoing to the girls.
They were held for three days – the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th - all three were locked in the same room. Day and night the girls were repeatedly taken individually to another room where they were beaten, questioned, slapped and their hair was pulled On the 6th on January the police took the three women to Rana's house again. There Rehana and Sinaha were told to sit in the corner of the room where the jewellery had supposedly been kept, while Saima was dragged by the hair and pummelled in an attempt to make her confess.
There the police kicked Saima in the stomach and repeatedly threw her to the floor with her helpless mother and niece witnessing the entire scene.
Because of this harsh treatment – Saima became unwell and her health was in jeopardy – she was unable to walk because they had severely kicked and beaten her on her legs. She was trembling with shock and trauma. Police officers fearing she would die in custody sent her home to recover and people from the neighbourhood came to see her and witnessed the visible scars of the brutality she had undergone. The beating was despite any official arrest of the victim. That night while church members and neighbours came to see Saima the frail victim was removed from her bed. Local police officers led by Station House Officer (SHO) Ahmed Mir. In a galling act of indifference, he dispersed the gathering and grabbed barely alive Saima before onlookers and dragged her and Sinaha to the police station. Weeping mother Rehana and her husband Niaz accompanied them later that night around midnight - the praying couple sat in the police station all night while the girls were locked up.
On 7th January morning after the father had returned home to get a few sanitary items for the women, Rehana saw a police officer she had not seen before - he seemed to be a senior police officer. He took Saima to the investigation room and hung her up by her arms and made her drink boiling water, slapping her several times during his interrogation – Rehana who was outside was in hysterics as she endured the screaming of Saima. Every time she remonstrated and asked to be with her daughter an officer at the doors threatened to eject her from the station. The painful investigative measures went on for 3 hours.
Saima was taken back to the lock up room where she was consoled by her mother as she described her torment.
When Niaz returned after a day’s work to spend the evening with all the women, he and Rehana were ejected from the station. From that date the parents were prevented access to the station in an attempt to prevent observation of the atrocities they were committing against the girls until over ten days later.
After contacting community leaders, the local media became involved on 9th January. Police fearful of being caught in a scandal then created a pre-dated FIR and moved the girls to Rahakhwali police station for women. At no time did either Saima or Sinaha confess and no evidence surfaced proving they had committed any crimes.
The girls were also said to be taken for medical treatment at an unknown hospital which is likely the District Head Quarters. At the hospital Rana, the homeowner was present and shockingly was in the examine room with Saima along with medical staff and police officers. This was the very first-time female police officers accompanied their male colleagues.
Saima told her brother later that there was no medical treatment given to either girl and that none of her injuries were either assessed or treated at that incident. There were two injections that were given but she does not know what the injections were for or what the substance was used in a complete breach of medical laws. She was forced to put her thumb prints on a paper to confirm that her medical assessment and treatment had been completed with her permission.
Later in the afternoon on the 9th after her supposed visit to hospital the family was informed that Saima and Sinaha had been transferred to Faisalabad District Women’s Jail and that the earlier police fined her and charged her with theft of the 35 tola gold. This is despite having not previously registered FIR or any existing warrant for the arrest of the cousins.
The police had no visible presence in the neighborhood until the 29th but they still dated the FIR for the 27th of December. The family did not see Saima and Sinaha for the duration of their incarceration in the Faisalabad District Jail until Friday 18th January. In an excessive measure that is clearly meant to intimidate the whole family in to submitting to the horrible abuse they were experiencing, they also accused all the brothers of Saima despite them having proof of being at work at the alleged time of the theft.
A line registered on the Police FIR states:
“…on 27 the evening when all their members were on the upper portion of the home that Saima along with her cousin called her brothers and stole the gold.“
The police FIR is marked 27th so this means it was pre-dated in order to fully support the false accusation of the rich home owner and protect the abusive police from being investigated. Media pressure exposed the fact that they had been harassing the family without cause. The entire neighbourhood saw how Saima had been tortured at her employers’ home, the two accused were not formally charged, and how they were able to commute to and from their home as the young women' health conditions deteriorated.
9th Jan after the medical, fines 35 Tola were rendered and both were taken to jail. In following days, different charities began to advocate, media complained and it was broadcasted on social media.
Police denied their reprehensible behaviour and produced falsified medical reports showing no torture and the false FIR. However, they unlawfully confined the two girls and tortured them. Catholic Charities have provided a lwayer to handle their case. The family has not been allowed to see the girls and has applied for bail through their lawyers. 17th January the family tried to meet with the two cousins, but we have not heard if this occurred.
A positive development is that the SHO Ahmed Mir has been suspended from his position – by the orders of the CPO (City Police Officer of Faisalabad District). The family does not know the name of the CPO who did this only the position. SHO or Station House Officer is suspended pending an investigation.
The parents of the Sinaha the 11year old are her mother Balqees and her father Mushtaq. The couple have four other children of which Sinaha the is youngest in the family – she is only in 6 grade, but has been dragged into this violence for little more than visiting her family at Christmas.
Saima has 6 other siblings and she is third child in the family. There are 5 brothers and one younger sister (22). Her elder brothers are married and all live in the same family home which is a rented accommodation. Her other brothers are government employees and work as labourers.
Even though there is no evidence both of the girls are still in prison. The wicked imagination of the home owners has caused needless trauma to these two innocent cousins.
The family belongs to the Catholic Mission and Mr. Khalid who is helping the family of the victims in terms of fellowship and legal assistance has hired them a lawyer, who will also fight the case for welfare. The family is in deep sorrow. They need financial help as well as legal too so that they hire the good lawyer for their daughter, and they hope to get bail so she can be removed from the daily harassment she is enduring that the hands of the police.
We believe that they have overlooked other culprits because of their desire to fixate on this Christian family, or they have contrived the story as a mean to extort money or secure reimbursement from an insurance claim. BPCA would like their home insurance investigated to see if they have a standing claim against the supposedly missing items.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"I am extremely concerned about the despicable treatment of Saima and Sinaha two victims of the kaffirophobia that permeates throught Pakistani society and that has corrupted police authorities against the perceived 'demonic' Christians within their midst.
"The brutality used in order to extract a confession our of these two young cousins contravenes numerous international laws not leastly the 'The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment' which Pakistan is signatory too.
"Flaunting the UN Convention against torture is a common practice of the Pakistani police forces, but rarely is it ever this brutal against young women or girls which makes this particular account more gruesome than the numerous previous ones.
"The fact that thes innocent young cousins need to apply for bail is the most shocking and poor indictment of the Pakistani legal system, without any evidence such a long incarceration simply beggars belief and the trauma these young victims have had to endure has enraged the Christian community.
"Until the two girls are released from their illegal detainment we call on the international community to pray for them."
We will be offering every form of assistance to the family of Saima and Sinaha and have already agreed to cover the lost wages of Saima and to cover their expenses for travel to courts, counselling for the victims and provision a safe house which may arise as they fight for justice. If you would like to help us as we support our work please (click here) for options to donate.
To sign our petition calling for the release of Saima and Sinaha and the prosecution of the torturers
BPCA officer Zeeshan Masih talking to Khalid an elder of the Catholic Church