Widow’s weeds: A ‘targeted killing’ claims more than just a life

Published: November 13, 2012

Humera holds up a picture of her husband, Baksh Zaman, who was killed two years ago during violence that swept through Katti Pahari. Since he passed away, she has accrued a debt of around Rs70,000 and is constantly worried about how she will support her nine children. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: For Humera Zaman, a middle-aged widow who lost her husband to Karachi’s targeted killings, life is a series of humiliations.

When she steps out from her house in a veil and a chador, men in her neighbourhood shower scorn on her. They are yet to get the money back that she borrowed from them.
When Humera goes to a nearby store to buy essentials, the shopkeeper ridicules her and calls her a beggar. He refuses to give her anything until she has cleared previous dues.

The woman pleads but fails. She returns home empty-handed.

“I am constantly thinking about how to feed my nine children,” she said. Two years ago, her husband Bakhsh Zaman was killed in the oft-volatile area of Katti Pahari.

Social activist Abdul Waheed says that violence in the area has impacted around 250 women. At least half of them were widowed. “Life for these women is extremely harsh especially when they don’t have any other man in the house.”

While the men work as labourers, drivers, waiters at roadside cafes or as guards, the women are not allowed to work because of cultural norms. The only way the widows can survive is to live off charity or borrow money.

Like Humera, they live in rented houses. After her husband’s death, Humera managed to make some money by selling off a charpoy, a fridge and even the doors of her bedroom. The family is down to one meal a day. She has accrued a debt of Rs70,000. “I don’t mind working outside but if I do people will raise fingers at my character. I keep on asking people for money but am never able to pay it back.”

Her newly married daughter’s dowry comprised ‘three sets of clothes’. But she was sent home by her husband. Humera says he “won’t accept her” until she brings a sizeable dowry.

Some younger widows have been married to the brothers of their late husbands, while others move to their parents’ house. When Zahida’s husband was shot dead in last July’s violence, she relocated to her parents’ house in the same locality. Zahida, 23, had only been married for nine months. “My life seems finished. I feel like a burden on my parents.” she said. “I wish that the wives of my husband’s killers also become widows. My husband was innocent; his ethnicity became the motive for his killing. What was his fault?”

Widows from other ethnic communities in Kati Pahari fare slightly better, as they are able to work.

Four years after her husband was killed in Banaras Colony when armed men opened fire at his mobile shop, 54-year-old Surraya Bano has started working at a private welfare school as an administrator.

“At this age when I should have been resting, I am forced to work,” Surraya Bano says. She is supporting two daughters, and paying off her husband’s debt.  “My husband would keep all problems to himself. He would have cried to see me in this state,” she said. Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that women and children are the worst hit by violence. “Families are finished financially when the man of the house is killed,” he said. Women living in localities where they are not allowed to work end up becoming ‘mentally disturbed’, he said. “Financial burden and everyday violence troubles them. How they are leading their lives without money amazes me.” Hai called on the government to provide these women with financial aid.

Surraya Bano has learnt the value of women in the workforce. Her husband, she says, wanted to make a big house, and get their daughters married. “But now I want them to study so that they can support themselves.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2012.

Reader Comments (14)

  • getbacktowork
    Nov 13, 2012 - 2:15AM

    is there a reliable way by which we can help her?

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  • jumpo
    Nov 13, 2012 - 2:41AM

    can someone email me the details of these people, i want to aid them plz

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  • Zeeshan
    Nov 13, 2012 - 3:39AM

    What a miserable state we as a people are in. No heart and no justice.

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  • krachite
    Nov 13, 2012 - 9:21AM

    I hate mqm, anp and all of them

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  • USMAN786
    Nov 13, 2012 - 12:00PM

    @jumpo: its not just 1 family. all poor and middle class suffer if the bread earner get kills…..so vote properly too

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  • Saman
    Nov 13, 2012 - 12:12PM

    Is there any way that we can reach out to this woman? What is the best way to help these women? It would be great if the writer could organize a way to raise funds for them or assist us in doing so.

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  • atts
    Nov 13, 2012 - 12:13PM

    I think instead of financial aid, someone should given them a job …….. maybe teach them some stitching / embroidery etc, where they dont need to get out of their house so much. That way they will be provided for life instead of short term help. One should also look into schooling for the children.

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  • Broken Heart
    Nov 13, 2012 - 1:07PM

    Dear All Assalamu Alaikum,

    We all want independence, while living in a system made by Allah(S.W.T). But do remember, while living in this limited world, we will all have to obey the orders and directions of Allah, if not our sinful deeds will create such an atmosphere that, it will be really hard to live. I only request all (including myself), to try to do “Astaghfar”, and stop disobedience of Allah. Please ask Ullema’s & Mufti’s that what is wrong and what is right, and then lets put our lives on the right path, and then InshaAllah everything will get better.

    One more thing, it is noticed that If one just takes care of his deeds and put his/her life on the right path of Sharia’h & Sunna’h, then he will feel the Real Sukoon in his life. So, lets not care of what other’s are doing, either they are following Sharia’h or Sunna’h or not, just let ourselve be on the said right path.

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  • Muhammard Rizwan Ali
    Nov 13, 2012 - 3:41PM

    Well article by Rabia Ali,
    Just how women are so helpless in Pakistan,
    I appeal, people comeout, and help these women, just the name of ALLAH
    No need to ask, Government, NGOs, or any political parties, Islamic organizations

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  • atts
    Nov 13, 2012 - 3:55PM

    @Broken Heart:
    I wonder if the sermon pertains to the above article specifically or is this just generalized moral policing…

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  • Muhammard Rizwan Ali
    Nov 13, 2012 - 5:22PM

    @Saman:
    You should contact Express Tribune, to this article writer name

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  • aaj
    Nov 13, 2012 - 7:01PM

    @Broken Heart:
    okkkkkk sir… but what you are saying… is it relevant to the news above???

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  • Broken Heart
    Nov 14, 2012 - 1:51PM

    @atts: Just tried to generalize for this limited world and for the peace of the upcoming “Never Ending life”.

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  • Broken Heart
    Nov 14, 2012 - 2:29PM

    @aaj:
    Dear, I don’t want to change the topic, but Yes, I really want to divert the attention of all of us towards the really solution of our problems, which is the peace of mind. The path defined by Allah Tabarak wa Ta’aala is so beautiful, and we should be aware of the fact that the real peace of life is in the Allah’s Path. I don’t want to mention, but frankly, I severely feel the pain for all these Widows and the innocent victim’s relatives. And, I want everybody be safe and happy with their families.

    But since all the current happenings are only due to our sins, so @aaj, are we ready to leave the sins? And are we ready to follow the path of Allah(which is obviously, TAQWA)? Rather than just commenting on the current happenings. I think, NO. Even if an act like this takes place, one can still witness the acts of Allah’s disobedience (not going to Masajid for prayers, Music, Films, cutting the Beard, women not covering themselves(be-pardagi) and so on….. which unfortunately, are commonly found).

    Anyways, I just wanted to divert the attention of all of us towards these commonly found serious issues, which are obviously the main cause of these type of happenings.

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