KARACHI: An hour before Fakhra Younus, an acid victim, jumped from the sixth floor of her Rome apartment building, she looked at her distorted, scarred face in the mirror and wept bitterly.
Her neighbour in the Italian capital, Haji Allah Din, who left her crying in the house, dismissing the incident as a daily episode, told The Express Tribune that Fakhra was haunted by her past even on that ill-fated day.
On Sunday afternoon, Din escorted her body from Rome to Karachi airport in a casket draped in the national flag.
Her body was received by her tearful family as well as PML-N lawmaker Tehmina Durrani and Muttahida Qaumi Movement leaders Wasay Jalil, Khushbakht Shujaat and Nadia Gabol.
At the request of social activist Abdul Sattar Edhi, funeral prayers were offered at the Edhi Shelter Home in Sohrab Goth, while she was laid to rest at the DHA graveyard.
The woman in her early thirties was the wife of former parliamentarian Bilal Mustafa Khar, whom she accused of pouring acid on her in 2000. Soon after the attack, she left for Italy, where she underwent 39 surgeries.
Younus, who had longed to meet her younger sister Kiran, returned to her after 12 years. The devastated sister, putting her head on the casket, wailed “Fakhra utho” (wake up, Fakhra). Upon seeing her sister’s face, her cries grew louder.
Nearby, Din recalled the last activities of Fakhra that fateful morning of March 17. “She asked me to dial three telephone numbers in Pakistan, one of which belonged to a television channel producer. Fakhra said she wanted to give an interview and then die.” But since Din had heard her say that several times, he left the house after doing the household chores. At 11:00 am, he got a call from the reception that she had ended her life.
Din said things were getting worse for her. “She had no money. Sales from her book had dried up and she was in debt.”
MQM appeals to reopen case
Jalil said that his party had appealed to the chief justice to take suo motu notice of her death. “Investigations should be reopened and the criminal should be given an exemplary punishment.” He ruled out allegations that the party was raising the issue because of Khar’s involvement and said they want all criminals behind acid attacks to be punished. Fakhra’s family has no such demands. Shahida Malik, mother-in-law of the victim’s sister and a complainant in the case, said that they did not know who threw acid on the girl. “She is gone. We can’t bring her back.
Khar rubishes accusations
Meanwhile, the victim’s former husband and accused former MPA Bilal Khar told a television channel that another man by the name of Bilal Khar had committed the crime.“Fakhra’s family has said in court that another man by the name of Bilal Khar, a dark, short, man had poured acid on her. I did not do anything. The court has cleared me.”
Sympathy from Italy
Italy sent a heartfelt condolence message for the victim. “Italy is proud to have provided help for Fakhra Younus and her son, a small apartment, medical treatment including 39 counts of reconstructive surgery, and a small disability pension. Obviously that wasn’t enough to heal the scars of her soul,” Italian Consul Roberto Franceschinis said in the statement.
“The fact of the matter is that she was still very much in love with her country and eager to come back and fight to regain her rightful place in this society. Now the real question is: has she finally lost her struggle? This is for the Pakistani people to answer.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.