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PAKISTANI WOMAN FORCED TO LIVE IN SHAME

By Somy Ali

The hurt, the anger, the wounded sense of helpless outrage, the psycho-physical scars, a victim of rape has to live forever with couldn’t have been summed better… they could also have been the words and thoughts of Dr. Shazia Khalid — a victim of rape and a victim of the system that shields the perpetrators of this one of the most heinous crime against women. Indian subcontinent’s latest victim of sexual abuse, Dr. Shazia Khalid’s predicament has of late been stirring many in the Western media through articles and appeals for justice in publications like The New York Times amongst others.

But that’s not a fame, a woman would dream of even in the worst of her nightmares. On the night of January 2, 2003, Shazia, a young Pakistani woman working in the Pakistan Petroleum Plant in Balochistan was brutally and viciously raped, beaten and raped again throughout the night by a senior army officer. However, even after that sustained victimization when Shazia entered the nurse’s quarters early that morning with a swelling on her forehead, bleeding from her nose and ear and barely able to walk, instead of helping her, the officials at the plant drugged her and admitted her into a psychiatric hospital in Karachi. She was warned that if she went to the police she would be arrested and her reputation would be ruined.

Luckily Shazia got some reprieve in a caring and empathetic husband. Shazia’s husband, Mr. Khalid Aman, an engineer, who was in Libya at the time of his wife’s predicament, immediately rushed home to her rescue and reassured her of his love. In his eyes, she still was pure and that they would report the matter to the police and get her rapist arrested, despite the non-cooperation of her erstwhile employers.

But Shazia’s travails had just begun. To cover up their laxity, the Petroleum Plant officials started implying that Shazia was a ‘loose woman,’ who had ‘invited’ the misfortune upon herself. But it wasn’t only her employers who had turned a blind eye to her pleas, to make matters worse, Aman’s grandfather now wanted Shazia killed to protect the family honor in line of many of the honor killings the sub-continent’s rural hinterland is still famous for! He even organized a mob to murder her, terming her “impure” and accusing her of bringing shame to the family. Simultaneously, he also told Aman to immediately divorce his wife.

Depressed and discouraged, Shazia even tried to commit suicide, but her husband and adopted son Adnan, 18, stopped her from the act. By now the incident had already started garnering the notice of human right activists and the global media, to avoid which, the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharaff personally intervened in the matter and had both, Shazia and her husband Khalid ‘arrested’ and put on a flight to London, leaving their son Adnan to fend for himself in Pakistan.

Shazia begged the police to let her meet her son or take him to London with her, but all her pleas were ignored and she was forcibly put in the plane. She was warned that if she didn’t leave, if not the police, her husband’s grandfather would have her killed.

Today, Shazia lives, along with her husband, in a box size room in a London boarding house meant for political asylum seekers. “We live in this small room and are unable to work because asylum seekers can’t work. My husband and I get about 30 pounds for food every week,” says Shazia, resigned to her fate now. The listlessness is palpable in her voice when she says, “I can’t pursue my career as a physician, my husband too is sitting idle, and I can’t see my son, Adnan.” Their only contact with relatives in Pakistan is through e-mails, which they check at a neighborhood library.

Shazia’s son Adnan, who’s still in Pakistan is apparently said to be very disturbed by his mother’s rape and inability to get justice. Concerned about her son’s well being, the helpless mother says, “He has stopped attending college and is very depressed, I miss him so much and I’m very worried about him, but I know if I go back to Pakistan all we’ll see is dead bodies and I will definitely be killed there.”

However, Shazia’s isn’t any lone story of abuse against women. Her plight and her voice is one that speaks on behalf of abused Pakistani women awaiting justice. “I want my rapist to be arrested. Since I was blind folded, I couldn’t see his face, but I do know that he holds a very high position professionally and that’s why he hasn’t been arrested yet. This is terribly unjust and I pray that no other Pakistani girl or woman has to suffer the way I did,” regrets Shazia, refusing to be give up in spite of allegations of a cover-up coming top down.

Though Shazia maintains that she has left everything in the hands of Allah, yet she insists that she will not rest until she sees her rapist behind bars. She and her husband, Aman meanwhile express their desire to go to Canada, but the Canadian ministries are yet to grant her a visa. “My sister-in-law and a few family friends reside in Canada. I would like to stay with them, but I can’t get a visa into Canada on the grounds that I already have asylum in the UK and that I’m safe here.”

Shazia and her husband have been living in London since 18th March 2005, waiting for a favorable response from the Canadian Embassy. “We would be very obliged of the Canadian Ministry if they let us enter Canada. Our life has come to a standstill and I can’t see any hope for future here. I’m being forced to live a life in shame, whereas I’m the one who was raped and beaten,” opines Shazia on a parting note, summing a tragedy that even after more than two years of its passing, refuses to get over for the harassed and homeless victim running pillar to post looking for a safe haven, while the perpetrator back home struts on, unchecked, unpunished and perhaps with pride and dignity too.

 

 

 
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