By: Ahtesham Azhar
KARACHI: “… In the end it doesn’t even matter,” who wouldn’t have heard this song of Linkin Park but what separates Pakistan from the rest of the world is the syndication of the last stanza of this song.
Amazed? Take yourself back to the date when constitutional documentation of the women rights protection bills were passed through national and provincial assemblies. Even international organisations have set up some rules regarding the matter in last two- three decades. Plenty of political parties, stakeholders, authorities concerned and NGOs marketed themselves on the basis of it. But it all did not come into effect when they came into power.
Not that we lack taboos by any means but for the sake of simplicity lets stick to a case of a 15-year-old girl M*, a resident of Karachi, who caught the attention of this correspondent.
“I was 14 years old and lived in Kehkashan society, Shah Faisal, when almost a year ago, one day while coming back from a grocery store with my sister, Bilal Butt, a person who lived in the same area, kidnapped me on gunpoint. Luckily my younger sister ran home safely. He took me to an unknown place and when I started crying and shouting, he beat me with a gas pipe and drugged me. I became unconscious,” explained the victim about the most terrible incident of her life.
“After waking up I found myself in Sialkot, in a home, which apparently belonged to Bilal, as his two sisters and a brother also lived there. The next day he took my signatures on marriage papers, forcibly. In fact I was unaware of the documents’ nature.”
Since the younger sister had narrated the entire story to her parents, they soon lodged an FIR against Bilal and his father, Gulzar Butt. “Although police couldn’t reach Bilal, they managed to arrest his father, creating pressure on Bilal to surrender,” said M*. “Because he had no option, he brought me before the court in Karachi and threatened to give a statement as per his wish. Else, he would cut down my mother and sister into pieces.” Hence, the victim compromised.
At the court, M* gave a statement in favour of Bilal. “I said that I was married to him as per my wish,” she said. The court passed the judgement in light of evidences and my statement, and ruled in favour of Bilal, allowing M* to meet her parents once a week. “However, he never allowed me to meet my parents.”
And the worst was yet to come. “I was forced into prostitution. Initially I refused. But later, his father used to beat me up and I had to say “yes”. Bilal and his father started taking her to the infamous ‘aunties’ for offering sexual favours to influential men.” I was taken to residences of three aunties, Ambreen, Sana and Nargis, daily, and I was asked to get intimate with the people present there. My father-in-law and husband used to earn by selling my body,” said M*.
To the surprise of many, even police officials were involved in this game of forced prostitution. “Bilal, many times, also took me to the house of former SHO of Ibrahim Hyderi, Naik Muhammad Jakrani. He paid him Rs 10,000 per visit.”
But it wasn’t too long when the entire game came to an end. “Just a few months back, I was at Sana aunty’s residency. Bilal managed to escape,” said the victim. Since M* was an underage, she was handed over to her parents.
It was like a final nail in the coffin for the family when they found out that M* was working as an “escort” for 10 months.
“My younger daughter told me that Bilal had kidnapped M*. We were shocked after hearing the news and decided to report it to the police,” said the victim’s mother while talking to Daily Times.
“We registered an FIR 229/2012 Under Section: 365-b/34 against Bilal and his father at Al Falah police station in Malir 15, resulting in Gulzar Butt’s detention, and a court procedure that followed. It was Bilal who forced my daughter to give a statement in hi favour,” she said.
Since M* is back now, her parents are relieved but want the tormenters behind bars. “We wish to get free of the people who are threatening day and night. Bilal has even filed a petition, alleging that we have kept our daughter with us forcibly. Whereas, we have filed for divorce,” said the aggrieved mother. “Bilal with the help of police is threatening
our family to back off. We need protection.”
Daily Times also tried to to contact Bilal Butt but he categorically refused to give any statement “The matter is sub judice. I can’t comment before the verdict is announced,” he said.
For legal opinion, Daily Times spoke to Advocate Liaquat Ali Khan who said, “The girl gave her statement of marrying Bilal as per her will; therefore there is no point of calling it a forceful marriage. However, the girl can file for a divorce,” he said. “The girl can state in her petition that she was forced into prostitution by her husband and Section 264 will be charged against him.”