The Crimson Earth

By Noreen Haider

December 22, 2010, Gujranwala
Shumila, a newly wed bride, murdered by the bridegroom, who staged a dacoity-cum-murder drama to mislead the police after killing his bride over the demand of a car in dowry which the parents of the girl could not afford. Shumaila was offering prayers when Sajid opened fire on her temple and later wounded himself by shooting on his one leg. He later confessed to the killing.
January 16, 2011, Multan
Hina, nine years old, subjected to sexual assault before being murdered in Multan according to the postmortem report. The unfortunate child, left her home to buy some food items from a nearby shop, but she never returned. Her body was later recovered from Basti Khudadad.
January 19, Lahore
Allah Rakhi, forty, killed by her husband on the allegation of illicit relations in Ghaziabad Lahore. Police arrested the accused who confessed his crime and also admitted to killing his 17-year-old daughter Surriya Bibi by strangling her five months ago. Allah Rakhi was hit by hammer repeatedly on her head, which resulted in her instant death. The body of Surriya Bibi was recovered from an empty plot by the police.
January 19, Dera Ghazi Khan
Khursheed twenty one and Nadra twenty three were ambushed by their father and uncles and showered with bullets while returning to their home town of Mozah Marhaata in Pir Adil Village of Dera Ghazi Khan. The two women were allegedly trying to escape a forced marriage. They left their home nearly 18 days ago. The family members were trying to bury their bodies when a SHO, managed to recover the bodies of the victims.
January 20, Khanewal
Asma, eight months pregnant, beaten by iron rods to death by her husband abetted by his family. Asma was tortured in front of her mother, who was held in place by some men, at Kot Abdullah village in Khanewal. The postmortem report confirms torture and death by poison. The police have arrested her husband who has confessed to the killing.
January 20, Vehari
Shaista, seven months pregnant, killed by her husband allegedly over suspicions of having an illicit relationship. She was choked to death by stuffing a piece of cloth in her mouth. Her husband Yousaf and his father, Hafeez, were arrested by the police where they admitted to killing Shazia.
January 21, Multan
Zainab Bibi, wife of a laborer was gang raped after her husband Arshad Muhammad asked a local landlord Ameen to pay his wages. The landlord owed him thirty thousand rupees. On the demand of payment, Arshad was verbally abused and brutally beaten with sticks by the hit men of the landlord. Later, Zainab was abducted by Ameen and his accomplices and was taken to Ameen’s farmhouse where she was gang raped. A few hours later she was thrown near her house badly injured. Local police officials refused to file the FIR against the criminals. The case was registered only after Khanewal district session judge Ijaz Ahmed Butt took notice of the case. Ameen and his accomplice fled the district and are now at large.
22 January, Lahore
Shazia, 26, was brutally beaten by her husband along with his brothers and other members of his family and then thrown from the roof critically injuring her and breaking her legs, arms, jaw and head. Police initially refused to file a case against the culprits. She, the mother of four children, is still hanging between life and death. Her family is constantly receiving death threats from her in-laws in case they pursue the case. The main culprit is still at large.
January 22, Burewala
Najma Bibi is reported missing for days after her in-laws disgraced her in the name of honor in Mochiwala, Bherowala. In line with the decision of the panchayat, the in-laws of Najma Bibi, 24, cut her hair, blackened her face and paraded her in the streets on the allegation of having illicit relations with a man of the same village. Najma and her children were later evicted from the village on the orders of the Panchayat which ruled that an example should be made of her before she was turned out of the village.
January 23, Bahawalpur
Saima, 17, electrocuted to death in Bahawalpur district on the orders of a Panchayat that comprised of her father and three uncles. Her crime was that she had eloped with a man in the neighborhood and married him. According to eye witnesses there were signs of severe torture and burn injuries on her body.

It may seem that these cases are taken out of the plot of some horror movie or are stories from the land of barbarians who have never seen the light of modern day world but in reality these are but a few of the reported cases of violent crimes against women, in the very first month of the new year. Every day women are being killed in excruciatingly painful ways and there is no apparent end to it. All the above cited cases have occurred in the Punjab where the rulers have tall claims of “good governance”

It is preposterous that Panchayat (the informal local councils) are still continuing in Pakistan and handing out verdicts including death sentences against women. These courts have no legal or constitutional authority and they have no business running a parallel system of vigilante justice.

It is the complete failure of the provincial governments, district administrations and the law enforcement agencies that the Panchayats are handing out death sentences to helpless women.

The Chief Minister Punjab, Home Department, IG Police and the Law Minister are directly responsible for the horrendous situation in Punjab regarding violent crimes against women.

The regular occurrence of these cases has exposed the crumbling administrative system in Punjab and the even poorer intelligence system. The Central Intelligence Department is doing a poor job of gathering intelligence about developing situations which precipitate into such violent crimes. The police are lagging behind most of the time, and actually do nothing to prevent crimes against women. Even after the occurrence of such crimes, the inertia continues. The family members of rape victims have to virtually get raped themselves in order to get the police to come out of their slumber and register the case.

But the real cause of alarm is not just the brutal killings, rape and maiming of women by their own family members, but the effortless ease and fearless ways these horrific crimes are now being carried out right under the noses of the district administration, in broad daylight. The killers and abettors have neither any fear of the law nor of any social condemnation. In fact in many cases the killing of the “allegedly tainted women” by the family is taken as a sign of honour and he-man-ship.

Although the response of the police and the law enforcing agencies is pitiable and they have a dismal record in handling the cases of violence against women but how the communities and society reacts towards it is much more significant. The reaction of the neighbors, larger family, religious leaders, prayer leaders, local mystics, influentials and elders, whose words hold importance, all constitute the overall society that matters to an individual and if there is no condemnation there and no adverse reaction then it is, in fact a tacit approval for the act. In this scenario the state and its organs can not work effectively in the prevention or control of the crime.

The shocking rapidity with which these crimes are occurring is a commentary on the overall deteriorating psyche of the regressive society in Pakistan generally and in Punjab particularly as majority of the crimes against women are being reported in Punjab. It is also a reflection on how the weak segments of the community are becoming more and more vulnerable with the traditional social protection networks deteriorating fast and the state being a total failure in providing protection to any of its citizens.

The society which does not show any abhorrence for horrendous crimes against humanity is a morally dead society. We are now living in a country of dead men walking. Oblivious to the blood and gore stories around them and in a state of self imposed trance. If there was any life left in them they would have protested for young Hina, for the seventeen year old Saima, for Najma. They would have protested for someone. But the silence is deafening. There is no one willing to take a stand for any of these women.

As for the ruling elite they are busy playing the fiddle like Nero and enjoying their super luxury lifestyles comparable to any oil rich Shiekh in the Middle East.

I want to ask all the leaders of the religious groups and parties the reason for this strange silence against the brutality of men slaughtering their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. Why such abhorrence for women? What is preventing them from coming out in public and declaring “Fatwas” against the perpetrators and abettors of the crimes against women in the name of honour? How can a man justify his act by taking refuge in religious decrees against immoralities when he himself is committing murders?

As the sanctions for these crimes are inferred through the morality derived through religion, I beseech the Islamic scholars “The Ulemas” to come out of their inertia and play a positive role to save women from the blood bath going on. I beg them to pass their declarations, “Fatwas” now about men butchering women and clearly state where they stand in the scheme of things. Why can’t the Ulema use the power they have to pressurize the governments and mobilize public to rally the around this issue? Is it not also blasphemous that men are butchering women in a country where the love for the Prophet (SW) is sworn by all? What would the Prophet (SW) think of His faithful being silent spectators in the face of such brutality?

It is the obligation of the religious scholars to come out and declare the right of women with regard to their own marriage. Regarding a woman’s right to marry a person of her choice, a point that is relevant in Saima’s case, is a right granted to women by Islam and the constitution of Pakistan and upheld by numerous court judgments. All consensual marriages are perfectly legal and “Islamic”.

The blood of Shumaila, Hina, Allah Rakhi, Saima and Najma and all the slain women is calling every conscientious human being left in this country. Their blood will not run dry but will continue to seep in the earth staining every inch of this land until it becomes the Crimson Earth.

January 29, 2011
From SPN Newsletter.
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