MULTAN: It is said that, when all doors close, a window opens. But when mother-of-two Aasia was driven into a corner by extreme poverty, her only escape seemed to be killing her children and burying them underneath her bed.
Aasia, a resident of Dera Aarbi village, in Shujabaad tehsil of Multan, strangled her sons – Jaleel, five, and Waqas, three – before burying them in her room.
According to reports, the woman had regular fights with her husband and her in-laws over their tight financial situation. Aasia told The Express Tribune that her husband Bilal, a tailor who lives in Karachi, never gave her any money. “I was desperate … my children were hungry and would cry most of the time,” she said.
Aasia claimed she was neglected by her husband, who only came to her to fulfill his physical desires, while his parents left her and her children to starve.
“I used to work as a labourer but when there was no labour, my children could not sleep and would cry out of hunger,” she said.
On the other hand, Bilal denied Aasia’s allegations, claiming he had been working all the way in Karachi only to feed his family.
Aasia said that, while a mother can live hungry and can die of hunger, she cannot see her children weeping bitterly because of empty stomachs.
She further said she was expecting another child and was worried about the extra mouth to feed. “I will also kill him (the baby), I will not let him die of hunger,” she asserted.
An autopsy report confirmed that the children had been strangled and buried.
Dr Ghulam Shabbir Qasierani, the medical superintendent of the hospital where the autopsy was performed, told The Express Tribune that the children had been killed one after the other, and the mother first tried to use her dupatta to strangle them, before eventually using her hands.
A case has been registered in the Sadar police station under section 302 on the application of Bilal’s elder brother, Iqbal. The police have arrested Aasia, who will be presented before a court today.
Iqbal, along with the rest of Bilal’s family, alleged that Aasia was of “bad character”. SHO Saddar police station Rao Saleem told The Express Tribune that investigations are under way.
The bodies of the victims have been handed over to their father and their funeral prayers will be offered today.
Unfortunately, Aasia’s is not the lone case in the country, where homicides and suicides due to extreme poverty are common. One such case was of Bashiran Bibi, 25, who decided the one way to deal with crushing poverty was to jump in front of a speeding train with her two sons and daughter, all under the age of three.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2011, about 1,600 people committed suicide out of poverty.
Those who can’t bring themselves to commit suicide or infanticide, sometimes abandon their children. According to the Edhi Foundation, last year it rescued 110 such babies. Outside orphanages, the organisation leaves cots with signs above them which read “Do not kill your children, leave them here and we will care for them.”
Critics say alleviating poverty has never been a priority. In the 2011-12 budget, the government allocated 0.04% of spending for social protection schemes. By comparison, just over 17.8% went to defence, though some experts put the figure at 26%.
According to the Human Development Report 2011 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pakistan is among the largest group of multi-dimensionally poor countries in the world. Among the low human development countries, Pakistan is at number 145. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.