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SAHIWAL: The stunning story of master’s degree holder

SAHIWAL: The stunning story of master’s degree holder from Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University, a schoolteacher in Sahiwal who was forced into a second marriage on top of her first wedlock and was arrested in September last year and has since been chained in a room, has been repeatedly raped and twice had abortions because of police and family violence, is waiting to be paid attention by human rights, women’s rights and community watchdogs of the country.

The crime of this educated and enlightened village girl, Shahnaz Akhtar of Chak 84/5-L of Sahiwal, which brought her such gruesome fate, is her decision to marry a poor but educated man and to dutifully inform her parents in due course that she had done so in a court of law.

“The dilemma of literate girls in rural areas of Pakistan is their forced marriages with illiterate men and if they resist they have to bear the consequences including physical assaults and violence, sometime even brutal death in the name of honour,” a lawyer who knows the case told The News.

“Few brave girls take such grave risks, including court marriages, but it has always been a losing battle for them.”

Shahnaz is one of such ill-fated girls and it was after weeks and months of continuous effort that this correspondent was able to reach her and talk to her, escaping the ever watchful vigilant eyes of her cruel family members. She fears for her life in the custody of her relatives who have strong influence in the area.

Shahnaz was teaching in Sahiwal when she heard that her father was going to marry her off to a cousin, Tanvir, who was illiterate. On 9-11-2006 Shahnaz married Ghulam Mustafa, a literate man from a poor family she liked, in the district courts of Okara.

Shahnaz revealed her tragedy in these words to The News: “After entering into marriage with Ghulam Mustafa in the district courts Okara, I came back home and started living with my family without telling them any thing. But after a few months I told my father and stepmother about my court marriage. They were shocked and after listening to me, announced my marriage with my cousin Tanvir.”

“On 18-07-2007, the eve of my forced second marriage, I ran away with my legal husband and started living with him at Ghar Morr in Jhang. My family was financially strong but my husband’s family was very poor so my relatives raided Ghulam Mustafa’s house and using their influence with the police, arrested two brothers of Ghulam Mustafa, in a case they registered for my abduction.”

“I also sent an application to the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who referred the case bearing number 2857/2007(HR) to District and Sessions Judge Lahore but unfortunately for fear of my life I could not appear before the judge, who on 6-09-2007 submitted his report to the Chief Justice saying that I had not appeared before the court.”

“Then I and my husband were arrested from Ghar Morr and Assistant Sub Inspector Muhammad Iqbal started beating me, all the way from Jhang to Sahiwal, in front of my father and uncle. He tore into my ears and there was no place in my body where I did not sustain injuries. That beating also resulted in the abortion of my legitimate child.”

“Ghulam Mustafa was sent to jail along with his two brothers and I was sent to my aunt’s house where Tanvir, my cousin, rapes me every now and then,” revealed the weeping girl.

“These days have turned out to be a nightmare for me, when I have to suffer physical assaults from my family including my uncle Bashir and cousins Sikander, Arshad, Khawar and Tanvir.”

“I have been made to live in my uncle’s house with Tanvir, who claims to be my husband. I am being raped daily but no one listens to my cries. I had to suffer a second abortion last week, the abortion of an illegitimate child from Tanvir.

I am tied with chains at Tanvir’s house so that I do not run away.”

“Ghulam Mustafa’s younger brother studies in class VIII but he had also been arrested in a case of my abduction but with the grace of God his bail has been approved by the district courts.”

Sources in the village confirmed that the girl was being beaten every time when she tries to go to her own house.

Saeed and Arshad, the attorneys of Ghulam Mustafa, told The News that ASI Muhammad Iqbal had hidden or burnt all the record of the case and was not producing it before the court, to delay the bail process of Ghulam Mustafa and brothers.

Arshad said Ghulam Mustafa was very poor and had no one to pursue his case but was determined to live with his wife Shahnaz. “The opponents have probably bribed the police who have severely beaten Ghulam Mustafa and her pregnant wife,” alleged the lawyer. Saeed Advocate said that the bail of two brothers of Ghulam Mustafa have been confirmed because a fake marriage certificate (Nikahnama) was provided to the court by Tanvir’s family.

The attorney of Tanvir and his family, Shaukat Jaidi Advocate, when approached for his side of the story by The News, claimed that Shahnaz was married to Tanvir three months prior to her court marriage.

He said according to the documents available with him Shahnaz was married to Tanvir on 15-08-2006 and she went for the court marriage in November 2006. But the attorney refused to discuss the case further.

He maintained that disclosing details of his client’s case was against legal ethics but he conceded that due to sensitivity of the case and involvement of cultural issues such cases must be openly discussed in the media. He said he was only an attorney of the family and did not want any injustice done to anyone.

However Shahnaz denied any marriage with Tanvir and said that she had not signed any marriage document with Tanvir. She said the document produced by Tanvir was fake in which even the name of Tanvir had been wrongly written and her address was also wrong.

She said she had also talked to Tanvir’s attorney, Shaukat Jaidi, who had admitted that Tanvir and Bashir were doing injustice to her.

While these legal wranglings continue, a gross violation of civil and human rights of Shahnaz is continuously going on and she is being illegally detained against her will in a house
Source: The News
Date:1/20/2008

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