Asma Bibi (28 yrs), a pregnant Christian mother of four, endured unimaginable horrors at the hands of her Muslim employers in Sialkot, Pakistan.
Accused of stealing 1 million rupees, Asma was subjected to ten days of brutal torture in an attempt to extract a false confession.
Her husband, Ashir Masih, was also arrested without charges when the attempt to force a confession out of Asma failed.
Asma had been working as a housemaid at the home of Muhammad Adnan, a wealthy businessman with multiple garment factories and international exports. Despite her dedication and hard work, Asma faced discrimination when she informed Udah, Mr. Adnan’s wife, that she was eight months pregnant and could not continue her work for much longer. Udah had trialled two potential replacement workers, but neither returned after the experience, probably because of the ardour of the work, long hours and low pay of 10,000 rupees per month (£27.38).
On April 17th, the situation took a tragic turn when Udah accused Asma of stealing one million rupees (£2738) from a washroom cabinet. Despite Asma’s vehement denials, she was met with aggression and threats from Udah and Mr. Adnan. Asma’s pleas for her innocence fell on deaf ears, and she was forcibly detained in a locked room at their home in Sialkot.
Asma recalls this moment, she said:
“Blame for the theft of a such a huge amount of money fell upon me.
“Though I denied any involvement in the theft or knowledge of the money, my remonstrations were ignored.
“I explained that I have never stolen anything from any house I have previously worked at.
“I told them that they could check with previous employers.
“Udah and Adnan just ignored me and began shouting furiously.
“Udah slapped me several times while Adnan threatened to send me to jail if I did not confess the crime and return their money”
“I cried and tried to explain I was innocent to no avail.”
“They told me that I could not leave their house until I returned their money”
Asma’s husband, Ashir Masih, became concerned when she did not return home on time after finishing work at 6pm. He went to Mr Adnan’s house to inquire about her whereabouts at around 7pm. To his shock, he found Asma crying, surrounded by the couple and their mother. He was falsely accused of being involved in the alleged theft and was given two options: either sell his rickshaw and possessions to compensate for the loss or let his wife work for them until the money was repaid. At this point Ashir was forced out of Mr Adnan’s house by some of his doormen.
When Mr Masih tried to retrieve his wife the following day, he was arrested and beaten by the police to pressure Asma into confessing to the crime. Asma was subjected to continuous interrogation, physical violence, and threats. She was even interviewed and searched by male police officers without a woman police officer present, violating her rights.
Mr Masih was kept in police custody in an isolated cell yet no FIR was registered. and operation. Despite extremely severe inhuman torture he did not confess to any crime. While both parents were away from home, their three young children stayed with a nearby aunt.
Asma has spoken with BACA and explained how she was kept during her imprisonment. She said:
“They fed me leftover food which was given twice a day.”
“I was being given constant chores around their home and had no break.
“Every muscle in my body ached.
“If the work was not done to their satisfaction I was beaten by Mrs Udah and her mother.”
After ten days of agony during which Asma was beaten and forced to work constantly, she fell unconscious due to the harsh treatment she endured. The police finally released Ashir Masih, who immediately rushed Asma to Government Sardar Begum Hospital, Sialkot. Medical reports confirmed the physical violence she had suffered, with swollen bruises on her head and buttocks. Despite her torture Asma’s baby has survived.
Despite Asma’s application against her employers and the evidence of her abuse, the police have not taken any action against them. Instead, the culprits filed an application against Asma and her husband for theft despite no evidence, leading to an FIR being registered against them.
In light of these grave injustices, the British Asian Christian Association (BACA) has visited the victim’s family and offered its full support, including legal and financial assistance. The family has been relocated to a safe place to protect them from potential harm by the influential perpetrators.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“BACA calls for justice and accountability for the crimes committed against Asma Bibi and Ashir Masih.
We urge the Pakistani authorities to conduct a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the matter and hold the perpetrators accountable.
The application of the law by local authorities should be closely scrutinized.
It is essential that Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan are protected from such heinous acts, and their rights upheld.”
Asma has worked as a maid for many years and her husband Ashir Masih (30 yrs) is a rickshaw driver. Together they earned just enough to have a stable family home in Kachi Abadi, Sialkot. Ashir lost one of his kidneys in childhood due a major accident but has overcome this disability to earn for his family. They are both currently out of work and also need help with the costs of a safe house and a solicitor, as they try to challenge the false case of theft and pursue justice for the violence they have suffered. If you have been moved by this story, you can donate towards the help this family needs (here).
On 5th May, Mr Masih filed an application with Motra Police against Mr Adnan and his wife for the assault and kidnap of Asma. However, police have not taken any action against the culprits.
Ashir Masih filed another application at the office of the Disttict Police Officer (DPO), Sialkot requesting that he direct the Station House Officer (SHO) of Motra Police Station to initiate an investigation. Unfortunately this application has also been ignored.
Mr Adnan has filed an application against Mr Masih and Asma on 17th May which has been registered as an FIR against the stunned and dishevelled couple.
Mr Masih and Asma have applied for pre-arrest bail which was granted to them by the Daska Tehsil Courts and the hearing against this bail was fixed for 2nd June. The court fixed next hearing on 4th June.
BACA team visited the victim family on 24th May. The family has been moved to a safe place for fear of them being murdered or harmed by the influential culprits. BACA has offered full support both in terms of legal assistance and financial assistance but this is an expensive process. If you have been moved by this story and would like to help Asma and Ashir you can donate (here)