Elusive justice: Threatened with murder, woman tries to elude her kinsmen

Police refuse to help Sibgha out as she faces pressure from her cousin to pay up.


Hajra Illahi August 01, 2011

ISLAMABAD:


Sibgha is forced to stay on the run to elude her kinsmen. This April, accompanied by police officials, her cousin Tahir and his relatives raided her sister Aasia’s house in Rawalpindi. A police officer jumped over the gate followed by the raiders and dragged Sibgha towards a waiting car along with Aasia, when Sibgha asked for an arrest warrant.


Sibgha saw Rifaat struggling against her captors, who were trying to shove her into a white car parked outside the gate. A little further down the street, Sibgha was pushed out of the black car. Neighbours, who witnessed the scene, urged her to inform the police. Her father and only brother had also been picked up by Chak Jhumra police, along with another sister from the outskirts of Faisalabad.

The 21-year-old turned to her brother-in-law for help, but he advised her against going to the police, since their opponents were both influential and moneyed.

Tahir absolved Aasia of their cousin Imran’s murder and she was allowed to go home after spending two days locked up in Chak Jhumra police station, in return for a considerable sum of money. When contacted, the police feigned ignorance about her missing sister and brother.

Sajida, their pregnant sister, brutally beaten by the police, was released after a day. Nawaz was able to buy his freedom, only to discover that it was a money-minting scheme for the police — he was expected to bribe his way out each time. The fact that there was not a shred of evidence to implicate his family did not deter the police, nor have they ever produced any of the family members in court.

Imran’s family publicly accused Sibgha and Rifaat of coming to Faisalabad to murder him in Chak Jhumra on the day the three sisters had spent with their neighbours in Rawalpindi. When Sibgha went to see SHO Sadiqabad a month after Rifaat’s disappearance, she learnt there was no record of Aasia’s arrest or of the arrival of out-of-town policemen.

It was not a case of forced disappearance, the SHO said, and refused to entertain her application for Rifaat’s recovery. Sibgha appeared before CPO Rawalpindi, who referred her to SHO Sadiqabad, but he again declined to record her statement. Aasia, unaware that she should have been produced before a magistrate before the police could have whisked her away to another city, continues to pay cash to reach an elusive compromise.

When Sibgha wrote to IG Punjab pleading her family’s case, Tahir found out an inquiry was about to be initiated and strong-armed her brother to force her to sign a document in which she was labelled “immature” and “mentally imbalanced”.

Tahir agreed to refrain from picking up Sibgha’s brother and sisters on condition they would not register a case against him. He has asked for Rs1 million cash and two kilas of land in return for negotiating a compromise with Imran’s heirs, or alternatively, for Sibgha’s hand in marriage. Her father went to see CPO Faisalabad, who conceded that he and his family were being wrongly implicated in the murder case, but the harassment and torture continue unabated.

Sibgha’s septuagenarian father was dragged out of their home by another clansman, Shafqat, and detained by the police for three days to pressurise him to accede to their demands. Tahir has threatened to kill Rifaat for disgracing the family by running away to save her life and has repeatedly warned Sibgha she is next for approaching the police -- another dishonourable offence.

Sibgha tried to convince the new SHO Sadiqabad to register her complaint, but he, too, refused. She fears for her and her sister’s lives, but will anyone take notice before they are killed for ‘honour’ by a murderer who wants revenge for a perceived wrong?

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2011.

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