ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: Receiving a call to hear a young woman’s story, I realised what obstacles are built in the system to deny justice to woman victims of rape. But then, can we only intervene into a rape case when the international media takes it up? Or, when a human rights body gets involved?. Determined to take the matter with the authorities and dismantle feudal system that allows powerful families to get away with rape, 21-year-old Musarrat, resident of Adda Pul, Bara Meel, Tehsil Kabirwala, Khanewal District, is one strong woman behind a petite, feeble structure. Â“Justice is all that I ask for,” she says.
Speaking in very clear Urdu, her conversation punctuated with English words, it was hard to believe that she had spent only a couple of years at a primary school. Hearing her story in a small hotel room near Faizabad bus stop, where she was putting up for the night, one could not help admiring her guts. Musarrat with her husband Sajjad has come to Islamabad to seek justice and security from the high offices.
Not all women are as lucky as Musarrat. She has a loving and supportive husband. Her father an armyman was not very happy when she announced her decision to get married to Sajjad, a small time businessman in Lahore for whom she worked. Â“All I want is to get the culprit punished. People of my village say it’s a panchayat case but I don’t believe in panchayat. I refused to compromise. I want justice. Indeed Allah is with those who do justice,” she adds.
She faced threats of death and “serious consequences” if she took the case any further. “If me and my husband are killed, the Chaudhry is responsible,” Musarrat said. Married for a little over four months, Musarrat visited her family four to five times. On October 10, she got a call from her family, asking her to visit them immediately. Reaching her village involved changing a couple of vehicles. Arriving at Khanewal from where she was to catch another van to Kabirwala.
At Khanewal bus station a car stopped by her and pulled her in at gunpoint. There were three men, all armed. “No noise, said the one who came and sat next to me. “The car drove to the Dera of a known Chaudhry of their village. “It was almost 10pm when we entered his house from the back door and two men pushed me into a room,” recalls Musarrat. A man closed the windows and locked the two doors of the room and left, instructing her not to make a noise.
It was more than an hour when the Chaudhry came into the room. “He opened a dim light and I saw face.” He asked her why did she get married to “that man” (her husband). Why did she leave home and brought shame to her parents. Handing over a blank paper, he asked her to write that “you are leaving your husband.” Musarrat refused. “He slapped on my face and pulled my hair and threw me on the charpoy. He held my hands tight and started hitting my head. My mouth started bleeding. Then he raped me. He kept laughing and hitting me and abusing me,” she said sobbing.
Then the Chaudhry opened a door leading to the back of the house and kicked her out, asking her to run to her father’s house. In the small hours of the morning, Musarrat started walking but not to her parents house. She instead, called her husband. “I knew my parents would ask me to hush the matter and would never let me tell anyone or file a case. “They are so afraid of the Chaudhry. There was no transport in sight at the time so she walked all the way to Kabeerwala. It was almost sunrise when I got a bus to Khanewal and waited for my husband.”
When he arrived and she narrated her story, her husband gave her full support and convinced her to contact her family. She called her brother, who agreed to file a case. “Unfortunately, when my brother narrated the events to my father on phone and he came to know that the Chaudhry was involved, he called him back. Then we didn’t hear of my family again.” The SHO at Khanewal police station refused to file an FIR, as “it has to be the police station of the area where the rape had taken place.” While at the police station, I saw my father with the ChaudhryÂ’s brother and some known people of the village. They wanted me to resolve the matter.
Since that day, both the husband and wife are on the run. Moving from one city to the other, changing hotels as the threats of death follow them wherever they go. “It’s the Chaudhry’s people who say I dare not say anything to anyone or he will finish my family.”