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Keeping the hope alive

Keeping the hope alive

KARACHI: If it was some other female who would have been drugged and assaulted, banished by her village as a dishonoured woman, and lost her brother to perpetrators just because she sought justice, she would have sunk into despair forever.

But not this nineteen-year-old girl, who had barely entered her teens when she was gang raped by four men.

Now, she waits for hours outside government and welfare organizations, clutching a file of handwritten applications.

Declared a Kari by tribal heads a few years ago, the girl has evolved. Now, she battles not to save herself but to save another Kari and challenge this disgraceful tradition.

“What gives these men the right to set a price for and punish these innocent women? When will they stop?” said a composed yet angry S*, pulling over an Ajrak over her hair.

Beside her sits A*, a recent victim of Karo Kari. At the office of a human rights organization, A, in her thirties, narrates her story interspersed with heavy sobs.

“I was at my home when a relative barged in and told me that I was declared a Kari in a Jirga. I left then and there with my children, without taking anything,” said A, as S translated her words.

The charge against A levelled by the tribal elders on December 17 claimed that she was involved with her husband’s brother and cousin, thereby ordering death as punishment.

S found this wronged woman, shaken up, in torn clothes at a famous site for protests in Karachi city a few weeks ago, after the woman travelled through buses to make it to the city. “Her own relatives had shunned her. There was no one offering her shelter.”

Married 12 years ago, A says that her husband went to Saudi Arabia to work as a driver soon after their marriage.

“Whenever he would come, he would accuse me of being a bad woman and beat me up. I would tell him to stop accusing me but he would not listen. He was involved in the Jirga’s decision as he wanted to get rid of me.”

Since the husband would not give her any money to run the house, the woman sold beetle nut packets and stitched clothes to feed her two minor children.

While her husband was not accessible, Sardar Munawar Jhatial who is a police officer of the area and is said to have conducted the Jirga, told The Express Tribune, “She is a bad woman and she is lying,” and hung up the phone quickly.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is looking into the case. HRCP says it receives 35 cases every month of honour killing from all over the province.

“The number of such women coming to Karachi from their villages has increased. Here, the media covers their plight, the shelter home protects them and they can get free legal aid to fight their case,” says Officer Abdul Hai.

A, who can’t go back to her village, demands that the Karachi police look into her case and give her protection. “Back in the village, the police is siding with the criminals. How can I go back?”
Apprehensive about the safety of A and her kids in wake of the threats S is receiving for helping them, she has planned to move them to the shelter home at the earliest.

“I will keep helping her. It’s been years that I was forced to leave home. I continue to await justice. But I still have hope. I still have hope.”

(Names are kept hidden to protect their identities)

Express Tribune

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