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A glass of acid and the burnt girl

KARACHI: Maria Shah, 23, lies half-conscious in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Civil Hospital, Karachi Burns Centre. The scorches on her face have changed her fair skin to look like charcoal. All of her body, except her face, is covered in plaster; three drips have been injected into her body to provide her with enough energy to survive.

“I was performing my duty at a local clinic when he came and threw a glass full of acid on me,” Maria narrated her sorrow tale. When she moved her lips, her face tightened and forehead wrinkled. She tried to move her body, 38 percent of which has been seared by the febrile acid, but failed to move at all. However, the pain she felt when she tried to speak did not stop Maria from narrating her story.

Maria is one of the hundreds of women who are harassed and even killed every year. They are mentally harassed, beaten-up, burnt and killed. Most of these cases transpire from interior Sindh.

Maria was working as a Lady Health Worker in Shikarpur. She had opted for the profession after she completed her studies. She wanted to serve the poor especially the women.

Maria’s fate changed, when she was in class ten and her elder brother, in order to facilitate her schooling, hired the services of a rickshaw, which would pick and drop her from school. He chose Muhammad Arsalan Sanjrani, a local rickshaw driver for the purpose. However, after some time the driver developed a crush on the girl. He started teasing Maria using different tactics. He even offered her friendship, which she refused harshly.

After completing her matriculation, the girl informed her family about the misbehaviour on the part of the driver and requested that her brother hire another vehicle for pick and drop services.

“My brother changed my vehicle but the boy continued to tease me,” said the doleful girl, whose beauty has been eaten away by acid. She would not be able to see the world the same way.

Maria’s family asked the boy not to harass her but he continued his ‘cheap tactics.’ “My brother even told his parents about what Sanjrani was up to,” said Maria, her face muscles tightening, showing the pain she is going through. The doctor entered the room and forbid her from talking anymore.

Muhammad Arsalan Sanjrani and his family shifted to Karachi for three years. “When they shifted to Karachi we breathed a sigh of relief,” Mehtab Shah, Maria’s elder brother resumed the story from where she left it. “Three months ago the boy came back to the village and started to disturb my sister again.”

Mehtab’s eyes showed both water and fire, tears filled his eyes when he saw the pain his sister was in and then anger consumes them when he thought about the cause of the pain. “Last night he threw acid at her and ran away,” he said. Now, Maria is lying half-unconscious in the ICU-A ward. The blazing acid burned her upper torso, making her look like a charred dead body.

Resident Medical Superin-tendent of the Centre Dr Asim Arif claimed that Maria’s body has been badly burnt. “Right now, we are not thinking about saving her skin but saving her life,” the doctor asserted. “The acid has affected all of her body, especially the upper half,” he explains, adding that Maria is in a critical condition. He was of the opinion that the acid might have seeped deep into Maria’s body causing her more danger, internally.

Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza condemned the incident, calling it a brutal act for which the culprit will be severely punished. “The government will provide support to the girl,” she promised.

Maria who is half-alive, however, is not worried about her condition. Not self-pity but revenge is running through her veins. “Don’t help me financially,” she demanded from the authorities, “Throw acid at the culprit, as he did with me,” she added with defiance.
Source: Daily Times
Date:1/17/2009

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