‘Acid burn victim: justice long way away’
The following article has been published on dawn.com on 16th June by Imran Ali Teepu
The teenage girl has been referred from Sadiqabad, a city on the border between Punjab and Sindh, and is the latest acid attack victim under treatment at the Burns Centre of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).
“My husband Maulvi Sajjad threw acid on me because I did not bring money that his family wanted me to,” said Zahira in Seraiki, her native language, as she moaned in pain.
Sharing details, she said her husband is a moazzan by profession. “I have also memorised the Quran,” claimed the teenager who has a two-year-old daughter, named Aiman.
Zahira told Dawn that her husband had been displeased with her when she did not bring money from her mother and a few wealthy cousins. That night he told her he held no grudges against her and asked her to sleep next to him.
“Once I was on the bed, he threw acid on my body,” she narrated. “I ran for help and my cousin rescued me, but it was too late. I was all burnt.”
At Pims, she is accompanied by her mother, for whom Islamabad is a completely new place. “For the love of my daughter I have left her younger sister Masooma and a brother Abbas back home,” Zahira’s mother said she was not willing to share her name in public and added: “My husband is a truck driver and we live in Rahim Yar Khan.”
According to Associate Prof Tariq Iqbal, “Zahira has sustained third-degree burns on nearly 45 per cent of her body surface area, and is in a critical state.”
“She may survive but the sensitive parts of her body are all damaged and the wounds have affected her internal organs as well,” added Prof Iqbal.
“My mother has lodged a complaint with the local police station, but my husband is at large and there is no quick fix to my complaint,” said Zahira.
Her mother complained: “I am not hopeful about getting justice as I have no financial resources to fight my case.”
Zahira’s case is similar to the domestic violence cases against women highlighted by Oscar winning film director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy in “Saving Face”, but despite so much spotlight in the international media, justice is still a long call away.
On the case, Ms Riffat Butt, legal expert for National Commission for the Status of Women, said: “Amendments have been made in criminal law called ‘Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011’ and new sections have been added for acid attack and is now an offense in PPC.”
She elaborated that according to the new amendments made in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) sections 332 [Punishment of Hurt] and 336 [Punishment of Itlaf-I-Saladiyyat-I-Udar (intentional harm)] “if an accused in an acid attack case is proven guilty in a court of law, he would have to pay a fine of up to Rs1 million and serve a life sentence.”
When Ms Butt was asked why there had been no convictions and no punishment had been handed down in recent acid attack victims, she replied: “Acid attack was not part of any crime but now it is there. I am hopeful that acid attack victims like Zahira will get justice.”
Supreme Court lawyer Athar Minallah said: “An increase in the number of acid attacks on women is a huge question mark on the performance of the police and its ability to limit crime, but also on our political system that has weakened the investigation process of such cases. Ultimately, the victim is deprived of justice.” “In rural areas, the family ties are so strong that it deters witnesses from coming forward and recording their statements against the culprit. There is no option but to cancel the case against the accused,” Mr Minallah added.
If you would like to see this article in its original content please go to dawn.com website.
Posted on June 18th 2012 by Office in ASTI news