Karachi: The two-bedroom apartment is sparsely furnished. The living room comprises an off-white carpet, a few cushions and a small circular table with a chair. All the windows are closed, and though barely any sunlight enters through the frosted glass, bed sheets are hung over them to block what little light does come in.
Naseem Subi, a 35-year-old woman, enters a while later, straightening a tightly-wrapped duppata around her head. She apologises for the delay and begins her story.
Married for nine years with four children, she claims that her husband, a CID official, was never there to take her to hospital at the time of delivery. It was always someone from the neighbourhood. The little finger on the left hand is twisted outwards – at an impossible angle. It broke during one of the many beatings she got from her husband. Her nose is disfigured and the scars stand out on what little can be seen of her skin – her husband cut her with a knife.
It was a love marriage, and she was his second wife. But the love died a few months down the road. “He would come home drunk, and bring in women, with my mother-in-law supporting him all along. I had a house full of children, what sort of an impression would they get of their father?” she said as she explained why she started protesting more when her eldest daughter turned eight, and began understanding what went on in the house every other night.
“One day he entered the house at two in the morning, and started beating me up like an animal. My screams woke up the children, but they did not dare enter my room. Terrified, they went back to sleep.”
Gradually, his trips to the house became fewer and fewer; the reason, Subi believes, was his involvement with another woman. “He stopped making any monthly contribution to the house.”
Subi gets Rs6,000 every month from some property she owns, and another Rs2,000 from a bedroom she has rented out from her two-room apartment. She alleges that her husband, Sikander Taj Mohommad, sold off her gold jewellery forcibly and was now trying to occupy the apartment, which is on her name.
On February 12, she tried to lodge an FIR at the Sachal police station, but was sent off with a ‘kachi parchi’. On February 22, she wrote a letter to the president, the chief justice, the interior minister, the chief minister and the CID, but has received no response till now.
On March 6, she contacted the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which is now handling her case. “The woman is obviously scared of her husband. He is powerful and often threatens Subi and her family of arresting them on false charges, if they retaliate,” says Abdul Hai, Assistant Coordinator of the HRCP.
“The law enforcing authorities become one when it comes to protecting their own officials who have committed some crime. If the police do not register an FIR, we will register one through the court,” he maintains.
Subi is done crying for good; she now wants to fight back. “Our lives are in danger. I want protection and I will not seek refuge at a women’s shelter, nor will I send my children to an orphanage; they are not orphans. I demand a monthly stipend from my husband for the care of his children, after that he can divorce me if he wants.” She has not yet received the ‘haq mehr’ and applying for a divorce would mean forgoing the amount. That option will add to her financial woes.