In a ward at the Burns Centre, 19-year-old Erum, softly stroked her severely burnt right arm. The sleeve of her blue and yellow cotton kameez was ripped to make room for the thick bandages covering her arm. Erum sustained 24% acid burns while trying to protect her guest, Zareen, from an attempted acid attack by alleged estranged suitor, Kamran.
Since the incident which took place on December 25, Kamran has been apprehended. His accomplice, Azeem, is still at large, said Jamal Khan, the officer investigating the case. “We raided Azeem’s house, but he was already on the run. We did, however, seize the motorcycle the two were going to use to escape that day,” Khan told The Express Tribune. Zareen, 20, had filed the FIR in the Surjani Town police station. Khan is due to seek another remand for Kamran today, in hope to strengthen his case as well as catch his accomplice.
Still under treatment at Burns Centre, Erum recalls the horrific events that unfolded on Sunday at her home in Surjani Town. “Kamran must have seen Zareen walk into our house,” she said. There was a knock on the door and when Erum went to answer, Kamran asked for Zareen – he claimed that he had a present for her. When Zareen came to the door, Kamran attempted to splash acid on her face. She sustained 16% burn injuries on her hands, feet and back. Erum ran to help her guest and ended up taking the brunt of the acid on her right arm, forearm and even on her back. A few splashes injured her left arm and feet as well.
Dr Asim Durrani, the plastic surgeon who is treating Erum, said “Ten to 12 per cent of her burns are deep - they involve both layers of skin and will need grafting. The remaining are deep-dermal injuries which will heal by themselves.” Because Erum has not lost mobility in her arm, Durrani is optimistic about her recovery. “After grafting and continuous physiotherapy, the blackness on her arm will subside considerably and she should be able to use it as well as she did before.”
But many others have not been as fortunate. The Burns Centre reports that over the past four years, 36 women between the age of 18 and 40 years were treated for acid burns at the medical facility. In view of the bill about acid attack pending presidential approval, Advocate Masooda Siraj said, “We do not need more laws - what we need is to implement the ones that exist more forcefully.”
Since the incident, Zareen and her family have been residing with other relatives instead of their residence in Ranchore Line.
When contacted, her mother, Bilquis, admitted they feared the repercussions of their decision to go to the police. According to Khan’s investigation, Kamran met Zareen at the clinic where she was being trained to become a nurse. Since that fateful day Kamran began stalking her.
“On December 7, Kamran came to our house with his brother and sister-in-law to ask for Zareen’s hand in marriage, but we turned them down. Later, Kamran showed up by himself with a can of petrol and threatened to set himself on fire,” said Bilquis. After hearing about this, Kamran’s brother rushed to the scene and beat him up for harassing Zareen and her family. He also made Kamran apologise and then took him home. But the estranged man still desired revenge.
Zareen’s father, Muhammad Zahid, demanded justice. “I want Kamran to be punished. My daughter had to quit her job and my other children have left school because of his abnormal behaviour.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2011.
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