fouzia in America

Leave a comment

Every institution failed Amina

By Fouzia Saeed, Pakistan Fellow at Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC

Published: September 6, 2014


Amina set herself on fire in front of the police station in Muzaffargarh on the 5th of March 2014 because her rapists were released with the help of the police.  Her case created a media hype. Despite getting attention from the highest authorities it fell into the routine game playing of the police. Unfortunately, Amina’s parents did not get justice. The court acquitted the culprits on the basis of significant doubt and limited evidence. 

Amina was an 18-year-old first year student.   On the 5th of January 2014, she was travelling with her brother on his motorbike, when four men stopped them and attacked her, tearing her clothes and attempting to rape her.   Some people living close by came out and chased the men away. A woman put a chador around her to cover her body.

Later, her family said that the man accused of being the ringleader of the group was the brother of her sister’s husband.  He apparently had asked several times, but her parents refused every time. They were already very unhappy about their other daughter’s marriage to that family.

Amina became furious when after three months, the police not only released the culprits, but also submitted that there was no evidence to uphold any claim. Thus the case was thrown out. Her deadly protest generated reaction.

On March 14th, the opposition in the Punjab Assembly complained about the pitiable law and order situation in the province.  Although the Law Minister gave a long speech explaining what the government would do to ensure a proper outcome, the opposition still walked out in protest.

The CM visited her family and appointed an additional IG with instructions to deliver a report immediately. When the CM took notice, the police went into their usual cover-up routine. The CM intervened again and suspended the RPO and DPO for not taking action and instructed to arrest the DSP, SHO and Investigating officer of the Police Station Mir Hazar Khan for negligence.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan also took suo motu notice and considered the actions of the police to be in violation of Articles 9, Articles 4, 25(3) and 37(d) of the Constitution. They immediately asked for the police reports. Hearing the usual story from the Additional IG of Punjab, that the whole case had been fabricated, the Chief Justice (at that time) Tassaduq Husain Jillani rejected the opinion, offered deep condolences to the mother of Amina and instructed a Sessions Judge to investigate the case properly.

As soon as the new notoriety surrounding her death faded, the usual police tactics took over. They immediately released the DSP and SHO from jail and re-amended  the FIR (no 31/14), removing the references to PPC sections (322, 201) and the Anti-terrorism Act section 155-c, 7 that had been added under the orders of the Supreme Court. Amina’s lawyer moved to re-amend the FIR but the submission was rejected and even the high court no longer seemed interested to pursue it further.

A series of bizarre stories soon started to circulate within the Muzaffargarh social circles creating doubts about the honesty of the victim. This is another tactic very skilfully applied by the police.

After the CM’s intervention and the response of the Supreme Court, Amina’s parents felt brave enough to pursue the case to get justice for their daughter. Unfortunately, although the CM allegedly promised Rs500,000 to cover the family’s legal fees, no money was ever received, and no one among the higher authorities is following the case any longer.

The Session court has just decided to acquit the culprits, and the investigation officer who was still in jail, for lack of evidence. The ability of the police to re-frame charges, conduct shoddy investigations, falsify evidence in order to create doubts works every time. Nothing in this story is new to anyone who has looked into the crime of rape in Pakistan. These are classic tactics applied to every case since it is always the culprit who is willing to pay more in bribes to get the case thrown out and is usually more politically powerful than the victim’s family.   Because of this collusion between the police and criminals, the conviction rate for rape cases in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is less than one percent.

If this is the fate of rape investigations in cases that get substantial media attention, we can only imagine what happens to those that go through the normal process. A few days ago another gang rape victim in Dera Ghazi Khan set herself on fire because the police released the rapists. Is that going to be the future for rape victims in Pakistan? Will the rule of law ever become a priority for women in our society?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2014.



Leave a comment

Shaping the Mindset to Deal with Rape in Pakistan

The country moves on from one crisis to the other as usual. We have to make sure that our social ills and issues that are deep rooted in our patriarchal and violence society continue to be highlighted. Many need reflective and critical thinking more than legislation and government attention.

Express Tribune will publish a series of articles on rape. I am glad they are giving space & attention to such issues. Organizations like War Against Rape and others focusing on violence against women need to strategize together for a long term impact (Nadeem Fazil plz notice). It is so pathetic that we are still into blaming the women, punishing her for being raped and condemn the ‘damaged property’ that we think she has become. We know this happens at every level, community, police, judiciary and many more and we stay quiet.

The words describing ‘rape’: Blaming the victim, shielding the rapist

WASHINGTON DC: Pakistani society is still a bit confused about who ought to be punished for a crime of rape. Although everyone agrees that the culprit should be punished, in reality quite the contrary happens. Unknowingly, our society punishes the victim and not the rapist.

Like murder, theft and mugging, rape is a crime done by a criminal, but society is quick to stamp the victim as having lost her and her family’s honour. Why does the rapist not lose his honour for committing such a crime?

What do you call a rapist in Urdu?

While we do have names for other perpetrators of crimes like qaatil, chor or daku; we don’t have a definite word in Urdu for a rapist. We do not even have a proper word for the act of rape. We use words like izzat lut gai (lost her honour) and Daaghi ho gai (stained) or more lyrical phrases like kati patang (torn kite) and sheeshe me baal aa gaya (a stained glass). All these phrases refer to the woman who was raped, showing how we are conditioned to reinforce the patriarchal cruelty of blaming the victim whilst shielding the rapist from any responsibility for the crime. More recent terms like zina bil jabar (adultery by force) do not aptly describe the crime.

By using such language we become a party to this crime. Without thinking, we place a heavy stigma on the victim so that no respectable man will want this damaged merchandise.  Our society has to understand that it is the social stigma that keeps the victim from speaking out and, thus, responsible for most rapists going scot-free. In most of the reported rape cases, the victim and her family have been harassed and intimidated to the extent that they have had to leave their neighbourhood or village. In many of these cases where a rape becomes public knowledge, children are told not to play with the children of that family, resulting in a social boycott of the victim.

She must’ve done something…

The belief that the woman must have provoked the crime is deeply ingrained in our culture. We immediately ask: Why did she wear fashionable clothes? Why was she out at that time? Why was she alone? Why did she not scream loud enough? We can quickly conjure up twenty reasons how SHE could have prevented the crime if she really wanted to.

We stereotype the woman who gets raped as young and provocative and the venue of the crime as dark alleys where no sensible women would venture alone, the reality is that victims range from the age of 2 to 70 years old and the venues of the crime range from universities, offices, markets and, most tragic of all, their own homes.

Rape on the silver screen

Just looking at our films and plays, it is clear that our script writers do not know how to handle this ‘dishonoured’ woman. They either have her jump out of a window or become an accidental victim of a stray bullet just to get her quickly out of the story because no other character can possibly interact with her normally. But if they have to take her character forward, perhaps because she is a star, they make sure it was only an attempted rape and the hero saved her in the nick of time. Thus, it is rare to see any female character continuing in a play or movie after she has been raped.

Life after rape

The news for the conscious mind of our society is that there IS life after rape. Almost 30% of women in Pakistan go through a rape or attempted rape at least once in their lives. They do survive. The pain stays, but they go on with their lives. Social boycott of a rapist might not be a bad idea for a change. Let there be a clear statement that it is time for us to say ‘enough’!

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.