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Tug of war over Darul Aman continues

The controversy over the possession of Darul Aman between the government’s Social Welfare Department (SWD) and Panah, a non-government organisation, continues to worsen as official sources have disclosed to The News that the misuse of Rs200 million, approved for the uplift of the shelter home, and the grabbing of four acres of land is the main reason for handing over the government institution to the NGO.

This is the first example of its kind that certain government officials designed a plan and then showed failure of state itself for the embezzlement of funds. Sources said that this has made history as it is not just the Darul Aman that is being handed over. In fact, a few other buildings of the SWD have also been handed over to private owners on a 30-year lease. In this connection, recently the Minister of Social Welfare cancelled the orders of the Governor House and vowed to get the Karachi Darul Aman back to use it properly. The sources said the minister is also waiting to receive reports about other properties of the department and will take action regarding the same later.

Sources claimed that the City District Government Karachi’s (CDGK) Executive District Officer (EDO) designed a summary, saying “the government is unable to run the institution (Darul Aman), hence it should be handed over to the NGO (Panah).” Since then the NGO, which also runs its private shelter home in the city, is looking after the affairs of Darul Aman. These women are given refuge in government-run shelter homes for the period in which the court of law has to decide their fate. These women run away from their homes for various reasons – domestic violence, child marriages, unhappy and forced marriages, parental torture, court marriage-turned separation and Karo Kari (honour killings).

Some time courts take more time to make a decision about the future of these women. Till then, they are required to stay in the Darul Aman. Some women from tribal areas, who were kidnapped for tribal revenge, also take shelter in Darul Aman, as they do not want to go back to their family home where the tribal system cannot accept them.

The current figure received through sources reveals that in the Hyderabad Darul Aman, there are 13 women taking refuge, Larkana nine and Sukkur 17. The figures keep changing owing to the court decisions and settlements. However, ever since the NGO has taken on the responsibility, there isn’t a single woman living in the Karachi Darul Aman. Regarding some allegations of misusing the women there, the officials said that “when parents or other males are not allowed to meet the women in Darul Aman without prior permission from the concerned court, then how is it possible for any other man to enter? Actually, the concerned officials are involved in corruption. They force the inmates through matron who look after the shelter home for starting illicit relations with outsiders. It is all happening under official cover. It is government’s responsibility to take action against certain officials.”

Some women can compromise to ensure personal safety in the shelter home, as they are already frightened of their parents or spouses, who have declared them Kari and want to kill them. Thus they, said high-ups, avoid taking action against certain officials.

Official sources revealing the story of the Karachi Darul Aman said that once certain officials tried to convince a matron, Seema Nazli, to design reports, which prove that the government’s concerned department is incapable of running the Darul Aman. However, she rejected the offer. But then, a report appeared in the media that a girl, taking shelter in the Darul Aman, was kidnapped with the help of a watchman. Also, certain officials lodged a fake FIR against the matron (Nazli). The government then formed an inquiry team that, after thorough investigation, reported to the authorities that the “matron was innocent.” Sources said at that time, 15 to 30 women were taking shelter in the Karachi Darul Aman.

The second reason for handing over the institution to the NGO is that the female victims always go to court. The judiciary then sends them to government-run shelter for protection. There is no culture in the society for taking protection in private shelter homes, because the victims need security, which private organisations cannot afford to provide. When the private shelter home does not have women, they receive victims through the Darul Aman and keep their own shelter home functional.

When The News tried to contact Aneela, Coordinator Panah, she was reported to be busy and was, thus, unavailable for comment. Upon calling repeatedly a woman answered who identified herself as a housekeeper of Panah, said that Aneela would be available for comments after four days.
Source: The News
Date:6/3/2008

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