By: Ammar Shahbazi
Karachi: She set out to fight oppression against women in her community, but ended up becoming a victim herself.
Sahib Khatoon, an employee of a development organisation, was allegedly murdered by her husband on September 20 in Ghotki, a rural town in Sindh, 533 kilometres southwest of Karachi.
“She was the most educated woman in her family, who has been associated with the development sector for the past four years,” said Raja Mujeeb, a colleague of Khatoon’s based in Ghotki.
Members of the civil society have been organising protest rallies in Karachi, Ghotki and Mirpurkhas, demanding justice for their colleague. One such rally was held at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.
Khatoon was working on Community Infrastructure Improvement, a CARE International project outsourced to the Takhleeq Foundation (TF).
According to the first information report, on the evening of September 20 Khatoon’s husband, Ali Muhammad, arrived at TF’s Ghotki office to pick her up, took her to a desolate place and then shot her at close range.
Remaining separated for over a year, the couple was going through a “reconciliatory phase”. Khatoon’s Karachi-based colleague, Shahida Mangi, said, “Their marriage was not working since the beginning.”
She had separated from her husband after a few months of marriage. “But after the death of her mother a few months ago, she began seeing her husband again, when the elders of her family insisted that she should patch up; the couple were close relatives.”
However, within two weeks of that the husband shot her dead. There were allegedly a few other men involved in the murder, who managed to flee.
The husband is in police custody, but Khatoon’s family and colleagues claim that the police were “trying to protect the culprit”.
Despite being nominated in the FIR, the husband was not being arrested. When Khatoon’s supporters mobilised a mass protest, only then did the police spring into action, said Mujeeb.
Her colleagues claim that the police had offered the family “inducements” to drop the case, and they were acting as “the killer’s lawyer”.
“All we want is justice,” said Azhar Ali Khan, a project manager at TF. Khatoon’s colleagues fear that the police were bent on twisting the facts in the case and bail out the accused in the traditional way.
“[Police] want to make it a case of karo-kari and sort the issue in a local Jirga,” alleged Khan. “By taking it to the Jirga, they are trying to drift the whole case out of the legal framework.”
However, when The News tried to contact Ghotki Senior Superintendent of Police Abdul Salam Sheikh, he never responded to the calls.