KARACHI: A tragic love story lies stifled amidst the deafening bustle of Orangi Town in Karachi. In this overcrowded part of the city, Shabnam, hailing from India, was lured by a Pakistani man. The unfortunate soul saw in her lover’s eyes not the gleam of adoration, but the malice of a murderer.
Limited inside a small house for thirteen years, forbidden from going abroad, forced to don a burqa at all times, Shabnam was completely taken aback by this new life. As a woman who had converted to Islam from Christianity, this was hardly the life she had imagined. Regular beatings from her husband and insults from his first wife were a cause of horror for her.
She begged her husband Gul Muhammad Khan to let her return to India. “No, you will become a Christian if I let you go back. You will become a kaafir,” he would bellow. Early last month, angered by Shabnam’s continuous pleas of returning home, Khan, an electronics dealer, pulled the trigger on the woman he married in the summer of 1997 in Ahmedabad.
It doesn’t end here. Thirty days after Shabnam was shot dead, her eldest daughter, Chandni, committed suicide out of grief. Shabnam’s other daughter, the eight-year-old Sanjana continues to live in the same house.
Outside the small, four-storied home, Khan’s brother and nephews refuse to talk. “Go away! Go away! This is our personal matter. We don’t talk about our women.”
A representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Abdul Hai, said that they have sought an attorney from Shabnam’s family in India who would fight the case. “Sanjana’s life is in danger here. She is insecure, and we would want the matter to be solved in such a way where her life is not endangered.”
In India, Shabnam’s family is frantically making efforts to win custody of Sanjana and has contacted the Pakistani high commission in this regard.
Speaking from Ahmedabad, Shabnam’s Christian brother Noel Hodges said that they also wanted Shabnam to be buried in India.
The last time Hodges spoke to his sister was a day before her murder. “She told us that her husband had arms in the house and was threatening her,” said the brother, his voice betraying stifled sobs.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2013.