In the December 14 issue of The Express Tribune (ET) there was a report from the Multan correspondent of the ET about a woman being poisoned by her husband and in-laws for failing to bring a dowry. The girl’s father is apparently poor and managed to fork up Rs50,000 from his meagre savings when he palmed off his first daughter; and kept making promises that he would soon fulfil his commitment to the spouse of the second. Impatient as crocodiles on the Serengeti who had spotted a wildebeest who had been left behind in the stampede the girl’s husband, father and uncle inflicted on the wretched woman a daily dose of torture before they forced the victim to swallow poison.
The police refused to register an FIR, as they often do and the woman’s mother and brother had to appeal to the government for justice. Sickening, isn’t it? The fact that poor people or those without friends in important places have no proper recourse to justice. This is just one of hundreds of dowry deaths that take place in Pakistan every year — not to mention the rapes, the kidnappings for ransom and the murders because a girl rebuffs the advances of a Lothario.
The mode of snuffing out the life of an unfortunate girl differs from case to case. Severe beatings, forcing a victim to swallow poison or acid are the usual methods employed. They are all laced together under one heading — Severe Crimes against Women. So what are the federal and provincial governments doing about it? Why don’t the programmers on PTV World do a whole programme on the subject instead of making their anchors spout so much drivel about who calls on whom in the capital? Who gives a damn about the managing director of Pak Suzuki calling on Ishaque Dar or Nawaz Sharif opening some ridiculous conference? PTV World should also stop flashing BREAKING NEWS for every frivolous happening in Islamabad and Lahore and reserve the term for natural and man-made disasters.
I remember a trip I once made to Lahore in the late 1990s. Seated next to me in the aircraft was an elderly man who turned out to be a retired Pakistani politician. I think his surname was Qureshi.
We were packed like sardines and I had to sit sideways to ease my long legs, which meant I had to twist my body to make conversation.
I think the two of us had been reading the same item in the newspaper under the heading ‘Will dowry deaths never end?’ The word Jahez had been used four times in the article. Turning to me the politician said somewhat abruptly, ‘Jahez is part of our custom. What do you call it in your country?’ I hadn’t the foggiest where the former legislator thought I was from, so I said, ‘In the West in the majority of cases dowries are seldom given, and when there is a dispute between husband and wife the husband doesn’t go around torturing his spouse or killing her. Well, that was the end of the conversation. Dowry deaths have been rising in Pakistan for decades and dowry-related violence has been widespread for many decades in India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Iran. At over 2000 dowry-related deaths per year Pakistan’s reported number of dowry deaths are surpassed only by India. The worst thing about these unfortunate episodes is that even when an FIR has been lodged and the murderers arrested we never know whether the executioners have been brought to justice or have quietly slipped away after issuing a bribe. Anyway, the old politician said it was part of our custom. So we will just have to live with it.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2016.
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