The pavement in front of the press club is a popular camping spot for disgruntled union workers and unpaid municipal men. For the past two months, however, it has been home to two little girls and a boy.
Eight-year-old Fareeha came with her brother, Sarang, sister, Rafia, and grandfather, Ghulam Muhammad Panhwar, to Karachi from Dadu two months ago. Her father, Sawan Panhwar, was killed and mother, Farzana Panhwar, was kidnapped by members of the Chandio tribe. The three children sit before the press club with their grandfather, hoping someone will help them rescue their mother. So far, their efforts have been in vain.
“Gunmen entered our house and began firing,” Fareeha recalls. “My father tried to take shelter in a room, but the men shot him and dragged away our mother as she cried for help.”
The attack was apparently fuelled by the love-marriage of a girl from the Chandio family with a man from the Panhwar family in Dhondhra village back in April 2007.
Ali Raza Panhwar and Khalida Chandio fled the area when they were given death threats. However, the Chandio tribe continued to attack the Panhwar village, shooting and pillaging as they went and killed two people. The children’s father was Ali Raza’s brother-in-law and their mother his elder sister.
“We have no dispute with the girl’s parents,” said the children’s grandfather, Ghulam Muhammad. “We had a mutual understanding about the couple marrying on their own free will, but some of the girl’s relatives who were opposed to the marriage attacked our houses.”
Ghulam blames the former taluka nazim of Kamber Shahdadkot, Sardar Ahmed Chandio, who is also the Chandio tribal chief, for their misery. The family has lodged countless complaints with the police and with influential people, but no action has been taken against the people involved in the attack. “We have also approached the chief of the Chandio tribe who insists we hand Khalida Chandio to them in exchange for my daughter,” he said helplessly. Khalida has left the area with her husband they are said to have three children now, he alleged. “The court has also given a verdict in favour of the couple and the girl’s parents have no objections either. But these influential people have made our lives miserable.”
The three children live in front of the press club, barefoot, holding banners pleading “please, uncle Qaim Ali Shah, help release our mother”. They brave the heat in a long-drawn, final attempt to be reunited with their mother. “Our protest in front of Karachi Press Club is a last resort,” said a thoroughly disillusioned Ghulam. “The government and elected representatives are not listening. If nothing happens, I will also ask my family members to get automatic weapons and kill them. I believe there is no writ of law and government will not take action.”
Last week, Sarang, the youngest, was admitted at Civil hospital because of dehydration. The ministers and people who frequent the club on a daily basis never bother to ask what children from ages three to eight are doing there.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.