If a woman cannot prove her rape allegation she runs a very high risk of
being charged with fornication or adultery, the criminal penalty for which is
either a long prison sentence and public whipping, or, though rare, death by
February 11, 2005
By Anjum Niaz
The woman doctor employed by Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL)
at Sui in Balochistan, Pakistan’s oldest and largest gas field, discovered
and operated by PPL, was raped recently in her room at the hostel where she
lived. PPL high-ups hushed the issue as did the local police. There is
deafening silence from President Musharraf and his junta on this issue that
has triggered a low level insurgency among the locals who are already seething
at the discriminatory treatment that has always been meted to Balochistan—the
richest province in mineral resources, yet the poorest. Armed tribals launched
missile attacks on gas pipelines, electric supply and railway lines in
Balochistan, causing a big dent in the kitty of the national government. The
tense situation has now been brought under control with the help of the
More alarming is the callous way in which the Pakistan
government has chosen to ignore it. Also, eerily prophetic is the Human Rights
Watch Report 2005 on the pathetic state of women Pakistan, announced a week
before the Sui incident, that outlines the plight of rape victims and other
rights violations against women.
On every media buff’s lips is Pakistan. And for all the
wrong reasons too.
Repeating the word ‘freedom’ 27 times and
‘liberty’ 15 in his re-inaugural address last month, the world’s most
powerful man went into an overdrive against tyrannical leaders who denied
democracy, human rights and justice to their people. President Bush made a
sweeping promise to support the oppressed in their fight against shogunate
“All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the
United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When
you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you,” he vowed in freezing
temperatures under an American flag.
Nanosecond had these words left the President; TV
commentators began finger-pointing Pakistan, infamously bracketing it with
Saudi Arabia and Egypt for their authoritarian regimes, lack of women’s
rights and a poor human rights record.
Today President Musharraf of Pakistan has become the
defiler of democracy. Yesterday, he was the architect of ‘enlightened
moderation’ bringing his country back from the brink of terrorism as Condi
Rice testified in her confirmation hearings recently.
A banter of think tanks, newspapers and TV pundits now
orchestrate that Musharraf is a trampler of human rights, likening him to the
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a ranking member of the powerful
Senate Judiciary Committee comments: “ while everybody can agree with
Bush’s desire to promote democracy, freedom of expression and diversity of
thought, his speech might alarm some allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and
Pakistan that don’t follow such principles.” “How hard will President
Bush press for women’s rights and free elections in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan
and Egypt?” is on everyone’s lips. Wondering how Bush will break bread
with Musharraf, backslapping and barbequing at the former’s Crawford ranch
(sometime in the future) are the analysts at Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace in Washington DC. Why this sudden impugning of Musharraf?
It’s not rocket science! In truth, the brutalization at Sui in Balochistan
of Dr Shazia Khalid is the last straw to irk the West. Shocked beyond belief
that Musharraf, who heads the Army, is loath to name the rapists in uniform,
the western media’s amour with our affable General, adored for his plain
speak in the past, has gone awry. “Why is Pakistan Army considered the holy
cow?” ask many Pakistani-Americans, incensed with the shabby way the
government has tried to shield the rapists. “Why is Musharraf so scared to
bring to justice the men who broke into the woman’s room and in the darkness
of the night gang raped her?” The fickle and lackadaisal response of the
federal cabinet—the largest in history—under the beady eyed prime minister
Shaukat Aziz, after the locals opted to take the law in their own hands and
torch Sui only reinforces the male chauvinism and an utter disregard for
women. “Blown out of proportion”—yes, this is what the cabinet called
the Shazia Khalid rape case. How droll and comic can these ministers get? Not
only has the government of Pakistan suffered millions in getting the Sui gas
plant working again, it has invited the wrath of the world—nay not wrath but
utter disgust. It’s many steps backwards for professional women, wanting to
work outside their homes—that option has now been snatched away from them.
Additionally it has deprived thousands, nay millions of rural folks of getting
specialists’ attention. Tell me, which family, in its right mind, will have
the heart and courage to send its girls away from home to face unknown
monsters? Who then is the loser? Not Musharraf, nor his henchmen, nor the
army—but the women of Pakistan in particular and the populace in general all
across our hinterlands. Only a week before Balochistan rose up in arms, the
Human Rights Watch, headquartered at New York sounded warning sirens about
Pakistan’s deplorable treatment of its women.
Eerily prophetic, the 2005 Report spoke of “rampant”
violence against women and girls, including rape, “honor killings,” acid
attacks, and trafficking.
“ The existing legal code discriminates against women
and girls and creates major obstacles to seeking redress in cases of violence.
Survivors of violence encounter unresponsiveness and hostility at each level
of the criminal justice system, from police who fail to register or
investigate cases of gender-based violence to judges with little training or
commitment to women’s equal rights.”
Is this not exactly what happened to Shazia Khalid or are
we all, including our ‘benefactors’—Musharraf and company—living in a
Why is there a deafening silence against the law
enforcing officials who refused to hear the victim’s cry for justice?
Shame on everyone.
“Under Pakistan’s existing Hudood Ordinance, proof of
rape generally requires the confession of the accused or the testimony of four
adult Muslim men who witnessed the assault. If a woman cannot prove her rape
allegation she runs a very high risk of being charged with fornication or
adultery, the criminal penalty for which is either a long prison sentence and
public whipping, or, though rare, death by stoning. The testimony of women
carries half the weight of a man’s testimony under this ordinance,” says
the Human Rights Watch Report.
So don’t be surprised if you wake up one day to find
Shazia Khalid in jail! Nothing new, actually, she would have merely swelled
the number, estimated at 200,000 women incriminated under the Hudood laws to
Not to mention that a gathering of tribe elders in Sindh,
spearheaded by Khalid’s own grandfather, has called for the ‘karo kari’
(honor killing) of the woman physician because she has brought dishonor to her
tribe by being raped! “
“The grandfather should go and hang himself, if he’s
so ashamed!” say many women activists who fear for Khalid’s life.
The nation, specifically the leaders of this Islamic
republic, owe an apology to Shazia Khalid and her brave husband, who have had
the courage to go public in the face of societal stigma that rape victims
carry for life.
The young couple are our heroes and not the endless lines
of emasculated ‘democratic’ leaders, most of them turncoats, corrupt and
without a shred of shame.
“Musharraf has successfully convinced the United
States—and other countries—that he is Pakistan’s indispensable man.
Claiming that only he can save what he destroyed—Pakistan’s fragile
democracy—Musharraf has essentially been given a pass on the exile and
jailing of opposition political leaders and serious human rights abuses by the
Pakistani Army,” writes Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan researcher for Human
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