Pakistani Presbyterian bishop to help prosecute leading jurist for murder of Catholic girl

.- A prominent Presbyterian bishop in Pakistan will lead a team of lawyers following the case of Shazia Bashir, a 12-year-old Catholic girl allegedly tortured, raped and killed on Jan. 22 by a wealthy Muslim lawyer in Lahore.

Bishop Timothy Nasir, Moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in Pakistan, is a canonist and jurist and rector of the Theological Seminary of Gujranwala. Fides reports that he is a well-known newspaper columnist and defender of religious minorities.

His appointment was reportedly necessary because of pressures and threats surrounding proceedings against the accused murderer, Choudry Naeem.

Shazia Bashir, a house maid from Lahore, had been working as a domestic laborer for Naeem for eight months at a salary equivalent to about $12 per month. She was reported to be the only source of income for her impoverished family even though child labor is illegal in the country.

Her parents asked to see her multiple times but were denied visitation. They were finally allowed to visit and found her in serious condition.

Bashir was taken to Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, where medical personnel reportedly discovered evidence of torture and rape. The girl later died at the hospital.

Her employer Naeem, former President of the High Court of Lahore, is an influential figure who has close relations with the Pakistani army, the Punjab government, and the Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz). Recently lawyers associations and trade unions have defended him.

He was alleged to have offered Shazia’s family the equivalent of $250 to keep silent.

There have been threats and acts of intimidation against lawyers who would side with Shazia Bashir, Fides reports. An initial hearing called by the magistrate had been postponed because no lawyer represented the victim’s family, who was pressing the charges.

Doctors serving Naeem’s defense team have argued there were no signs of torture or rape on Bashir’s body. There are fears Punjab authorities want the case thrown out or manipulated to save Naeem.

Associations defending the rights of Christians say they will “not let the case of Shazia go unpunished.”

“The presence of a prominent figure like Bishop Nasir to follow the case, presents a guarantee and a hope for us all,” sources with the Church in Pakistan tell Fides.

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