Unidentified men travelling on two motorcycles attacked four women, one of them a teenager, outside a jewellery shop with acid in the Kili Kamalo area on the outskirts of Quetta on Monday.
The men used syringes to discharge the acid on the women’s faces as they emerged from the shop in the busy market area and escaped after the attack. Dozens of women were present in the market as they shopped for the upcoming Eid celebrations.
This is the second acid attack on women in Quetta, with the last recorded incident in September 2011, when four young female teachers were attacked outside a school. The school had previously received threats but no group took responsibility for the attack. No arrests were made and the school reopened a few weeks later.
The women attacked on Monday were identified as Bibi Safia, Zulikha Bibi, Noor Jahaan, and Ayesha Bibi. They were taken to Bolan Medical Complex (BMC), the only hospital in Balochistan where burn victims are treated. While all four women received second degree burns, the teenager, Safia, received 11 per cent more burn injuries than the other three women, said doctors, leading police to speculate that she may have been the primary target. According to Superintendent of Police (SP) Saryab Imran Qureshi, the other three women received 3 per cent, 6 per cent and 4 per cent burn injuries.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Quetta has constituted an investigation team under the supervision of SP Saryab Imran Qureshi. The women said they do not have enmity with anyone and have not nominated any suspects. “It is premature to comment on whether any extremist outfit is behind this attack or if this is the cause of a family dispute,” Qureshi said.
Female workers on the outskirts of Quetta often complain of threatening calls and letters received from extremist groups and Baloch and Pashtun nationalist parties such as the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Pushtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) have pointed to a growing presence of religious fanatical groups in Quetta and parts of Balochistan. They claim these groups enjoy official patronage.
In December 2013, anti-polio campaigners were targeted, also on the outskirts of Quetta, in the first such attack in the area. However, Qureshi reiterated that while there were dozens of women present in the market at the time of the attack, the culprits only targeted four. While investigations are underway, he said, “I cannot rule out of the involvement of religious fanatical groups.” Security in markets and bazaars has been beefed up.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.