It wasn’t just one leap that ended Fakhra Yunus’ life. It was three years of a violent marriage, one acid attack, 12 years of living with the scars, 39 plastic surgeries and zero justice.
In the year 2000, Fakhra was allegedly attacked with acid at the hands of her husband Bilal Khar, former Punjab governor Mustafa Khar’s son from his first marraige.
Her face and body were completely disfigured. She eventually moved to Italy, where its government volunteered to provide care for her – something that was ultimately the Pakistan government’s obligation.
On March 17, 2012, she jumped off the sixth floor of a building in Rome, ending her decade-long struggle. Her body was flown into Karachi on Saturday.
Fakhra met Bilal, a resident of Kot Addu, in 1998 in Karachi, where she lived. They eventually got married but after three years of being subjected to domestic violence, she left Bilal and returned to Karachi.
This seemed reason enough, however warped, for Bilal to chase after her and allegedly attack her with acid while she slept.
Bilal was on the run and was finally arrested two years later in 2002, while on a hunting trip and is said to have been hiding in a truck. He was charged with attempted murder, only to be released on bail after five months. He still lives in his house in Kot Addu.
While the then-government made various announcements to assist Fakhra and have her treated, they all proved to be hollow promises. Mustafa Khar’s former second wife Tehmina Durrani, however, stepped up to help her stepson’s wife. Durrani arranged to have Fakhra shifted to Italy, where she had 39 plastic surgeries in 12 years. The Italian government also provided her with a flat in Rome, where she gave in to her battle with life.
While the country still revels in this year’s Oscar glory for “Saving Face” – a documentary on acid attack victims in Pakistan – and parliament’s passage of a historic bill on acid attack victims, Fakhra’s death will be a strong reminder that Pakistan still has a long way to go in completely ridding society of such acts of violence.
Meanwhile, Muttahai Quami Movement chief Altaf Hussain condemned Fakhra’s death and the acid attack at the hands of her husband. Such feudal lords, he said, should be arrested and hanged.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.