In the first four months of 2011, six people suffered acid attacks in Sindh, according to a research report of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). Half of the victims were men.
On February 2, two brothers, Awais and Shahid Abbasi, were rushed to hospital after someone threw acid at them. Awais was referred to Karachi due to his critical condition.
In Sukkur, a young man named Kamran Gopang was injured when acid was thrown at him in the New Pind area on February 4. This was the second such incident believed to be linked to a family dispute.
On February 14, in Thariri Chutto village near Wagganin Larkana, a man threw acid on his sister’s face when she refused to agree to her daughter’s marriage to his son.
In Karachi’s Shah Faisal Town a day later, a depressed man stabbed his daughter to death and severely injured his wife with a weapon and acid.
On February 18, the Pak Colony police discovered the body of a woman packed in a bag at the Trans-Lyari park. The identity of the victim could not be ascertained. Her body had acid burns and torture marks.
In order to punish acid attackers, the National Assembly passed the “Acid Control and Acid Crime Bill” on the recommendation of an 18-member standing committee on women’s development in May 2010.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2011, piloted by Pakistan Muslim League-Q’s Marvi Memon now seeks amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Memon wants, in section 336B, the punishment to be increased to a maximum of life imprisonment and a minimum of 14 years in jail. She also wants the attacker to be fined Rs1 million ($11,750) for causing “hurt by a corrosive substance”.
“Whoever, with the intention or knowingly, causes or attempts to cause hurt by means of a corrosive substance or any substance which is deleterious to (the) human body when it is swallowed, inhaled, (has) come in contact with or (is) received into the human body or otherwise shall be said to cause hurt by a corrosive substance,” says a new section, 336A, inserted in the PPC.
The bill also tightens the definition of disfigurement and recommends that provincial assemblies crack down on the buying and selling of acid. However, the bill still needs to be adopted by the Senate in order to be turned into a law.
Other than that, under the Qisas law of Pakistan, the perpetrator may suffer the same fate as the victim, and may be punished by having drops of acid placed in his eyes. But, this law is not binding and is rarely enforced.
The report by the Asian Human Rights Commission pointed that altogether there were 12 acid attacks noted in the country in the first four months of this year. Half of those cases occurred in Sindh, a higher number than that of the other provinces.
AHRC’s assistant coordinator, Abdul Hayee, told The Express Tribune that acid attacks are higher in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa because of their cultures. While women living in the countryside are more liberal in the Punjab, those in the other three provinces seem to have a lower status because of cultural values. Because there is more karo-kari and the bartering of women cases, there are bound to be more acid attacks too, he said.
The Acid Survivors Foundation and Acid Survivors Trust International are offering medical, psychological and rehabilitation support for survivors in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2011.