KARACHI, Feb 17: Revealing as hollow the government’s claim to have stamped out the illegal organ trade and forced ‘donations’, a young woman has accused her husband of selling one of her kidneys as compensation for the bride price he paid to her father at the time of their marriage.
Twenty-three-year-old Musarrat Bibi, a resident of Hafizbad, told Dawn that in 2001, her genetic father Ahmed arranged her marriage with one of his relatives, Mukhtar Ahmed, for the sum of Rs140,000.
“Ever since the marriage took place, my husband used to abuse and torture me, and constantly taunt me that he had paid a large amount for me,” said the mother of three. “Soon after my wedding, my father divorced my mother and took off with the money he had generated from my marriage.”
The young woman told Dawn that her husband Mukhtar wanted to recover the sum he had paid for her and to this end, he kidnapped her younger brother Ashiq Hussain with the help of some friends.
“With this bargaining chip in hand, Mukhtar forced me to have a kidney removal operation in return for the release of my brother,” said Musarrat Bibi. “I was admitted into a hospital in Islamabad for three days during which period my left kidney was removed. Mukhtar sold my kidney for Rs150,000 to someone and soon after my operation, my brother was set free.”
She does not, however, remember the name of the hospital in which the procedure was carried out.
Musarrat Bibi said that she had not been allowed to meet her parents since her marriage but after the kidney-removal operation, she was not able to bear to live with her husband for long. A few months ago, she escaped from Hafizabad along with her three children, the youngest of them just a few months old, and managed to reach her mother Sabra and step-father Mohammed Suleiman in Karachi. Sabra works at a bungalow near Hill Park.
Organ trade still exists
“When I learned that Musarrat thought her kidney had been removed, I took her to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre,” her step-father Suleiman told Dawn.
“The doctors took X-rays that confirmed that her kidney had been removed. They were horrified to hear that her husband had been involved in the crime.” In order to justify the claim, he showed Dawn the medical records of the young woman.
Meanwhile, Mukhtar learned of his wife’s whereabouts and came to Karachi to forcibly take two of the couple’s children back to Hafizabad, said Musarrat Bibi. She added that he works at a brick kiln that is close to Hafizabad and owned by a former legislator, Nisar Cheema, as well as for an agent who hires labourers for brick kilns.
Given that the family is short of the resources to fight a legal battle that has every chance of being long drawn-out, Suleiman took his step-daughter to a non-governmental organisation. With the NGO’s assistance, Musarrat Bibi has filed a case for khula and is eagerly awaiting an appearance in court so that she can plead her case.
While the young woman says that “all I want is to get my children back and punish Mukhtar for what he has done to me,” her ordeal reveals that there is still much to be done in terms of stamping out the illegal organ trade in Pakistan, and for protecting potential forced or unsuspecting ‘donors’.
A law regulating cadaver organ donations, the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Ordinance 2007, was brought into force for the first time in the country last year. While this is a step in the right direction, it must be accompanied by measures to prevent and prosecute illegal organ sales, raise awareness about the issue and crack down on the medical practitioners and institutions involved in this heinous business.
Meanwhile, social education campaigns must work towards combating ills such as the practice of paying bride price, and improving victims’ access to avenues of legal redress. Until this is done, there is every possibility that people such as Musarrat Bibi will continue to suffer.