January 10th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha & Shahrazad Agha
“Why were they murdered? We go out of our homes to work everyday! Will they murder us every day then? Should we bring our husbands along to work too? No! We have to go out alone, leaving our children at home. They should tell us why have they murdered our daughters!”
A visibly distraught woman is shouting and crying at the memorial service of the two Christian sisters whose dead bodies were found from a drain in the Kahna locality of Lahore. Lahore police say three men had been arrested for the double murder and the accused have confessed to the gruesome crime. According to the police, two of the murder suspects worked with the younger sister Sajida, at a factory in the city and had killed them because they had been blackmailing them over their relationship.
Announcing the arrest of the suspects at a press conference, Shariq Jamal, DIG Investigation, Lahore Police, said on Friday that the suspects had confessed to their crime of slitting the throats of the girls and throwing their bodies into the drain. He said the girls were having a relationship with the suspects and had recorded videos of some private moments. He claims that the girls were involved in blackmailing the suspects and were demanding money from them. According to police, the suspects, Naeem, Mumtaz, and Sajjad, a third man who was involved in helping them to dump the bodies, called both the sisters to their residence on the day they went missing. They slit their throats and threw their bodies into a drain.
However, local leaders and relatives dispute the claims of blackmailing and extortion saying the sisters were killed in a rage after they refused to have any relationship with the suspects.
“Naeem had the sisters kidnapped and killed them cold-bloodedly when they refused his advances,” Sarfaraz Mughal, a local leader of the Christian community tells Voicepk.net. Similarly, the relatives say the story of blackmail has been concocted by the suspects. “Naeem is a cunning liar, he made up the story that Sajida had taken Rs 10,000 from him but did not say so when he made the confession earlier before the family members in presence of police,” says Ashiq Gill, a relative of the Christian sisters.
Abida and Sajida went missing on 26th November last year while going to a bazaar to shop for clothes on the occasion of the next-day Chehlum of Sajida’s father-in-law who had passed away recently. The family told police that they suspected that the sisters had been kidnapped. The dead body of one sister was found in the drain on 11th December while that of the second sister was found on 4th January.
Both of the sisters were married. Sajida had four children while Abida had a daughter. Mushtaq, the husband of Sajida, says his little children are distraught by the absence of their mother, adding that she cared a lot for her children. Qaiser, the husband of Abida, says on the day her wife had come to their in-law’s house for the Chehlum and went with her sister to the bazaar, never to be seen again alive. He appealed that the killers should be given exemplary punishment.
The double murder has caused anger and resentment in the Christian community in the poor neighborhood. “Christians whose women are threatened by rape, abduction, or forced conversion are now being mercilessly killed as well,” cries Tariq Gill, a community leader, in anger. He demanded that the government give adequate protection to the minority community that is constantly being pushed to the wall in the country.
Rana Mubashar, Member of National Assembly from the area, assured the family of the support in the wake of the tragedy. “The authorities should have made a thorough probe so that the culprits are sentenced for the heinous and abominable crime,” he says.
Rani Bibi, the mother of the Christian women, is being condoled by relatives and women from the neighborhood at the memorial service. “For a month, the police could not find the killers, when the killer was arrested he confessed that he had slit their throats and dumped in the drain,” she says, adding that she was worried for her grandchildren. “Sajida had four children while Abida has a daughter,” she says. The only demand she has that the authorities punish the culprits to atone for the unbearable grief and anguish caused to her family.
The Christians, who are the biggest and poorest of the minorities in the country, increasingly feel unsafe due to the rising extremism in society. The killers have been arrested but it is yet to be seen if the police have built a sound case that could take their conviction to a court.