Sunday, March 30, 2008

For the sake of my honour, shoot my wife.

I was just wrapping up work when one of the peons at work, Yusuf, approached me, swore me to me secrecy, and asked me for my help. He is a proud 35 year old pathan man belonging to the Yusufzai tribe who calls the outskirts of Peshawar his home. At the time he arrived at my desk,most of the office had emptied out; he preferred it that way. Looking absolutely ashamed, he lowered his head and confided to me the harrowing ordeal of his sister in law:

Three days ago in a village around 100 kilometers from Peshawar, Yusuf’s sister-in-law was walking towards her house. A car sped towards her; upon reaching her, a man got out, bundled her in to the car and sped off. The woman is a mother of three; and besides being Yusuf’s sister-in-law is married to his cousin – an ex ASF (Airport Security Force) officer who lost one of his arm during an ‘operation.’

After two days of tribal investigation it has now been revealed that the man who abducted Yusuf’s sister-in-law, is a young man who also happens to be related to her husband. (and Yusuf). The tribal elders however, do not agree with this version of the story and are adamant that this mother of three has just run away with her lover. As you may be aware, love birds are a big no-no in then NWFP. The tribal elders have only one remedy for such a situation and that is death for both the man and the woman; this maintains the honour of both their families.

In lieu of this the tribal elders approached the man’s father and he gave them permission to shoot the man. The tribal elders then approached Yusuf’s cousin, the woman’s husband, and he also gave the elders permission to shoot the woman, citing that she ran away with him.

Yusuf’s wife the woman’s sister, remains adamant that this is not the case. A woman’s word however, counts for naught (they do menstruate you know, and can not be trusted with any sane judgments.). She has been defiant in her defense for her sister and vehemently protests against the pronouncement of the tribe and continues to claim that her sister would never abandon her husband. But Yusuf’s wife also realizes that there’s little she can do so she sits idly at home, inconsolable, and refuses to eat a single grain.

The entire story reminded me of the scene in The Usual Suspects wherein Koba Yashi (Kevin Spacey’s character) kills his own wife, after she has been raped. That however, was fiction, and this, very much, is reality.

After revealing these details, Yusuf just stood there and waited for me to say / do something that would take this entire problem away. But I just stared at him impotently, not knowing what to say. I realized from the off-set that no matter how hard I tried there was little I could do.

The only thing I could do was call an associate in Lahore who also handles our cases in Peshawar and ask him to contact the police so that they may prevent the tribe from killing the woman. After hearing the facts our associated excused himself from the case and informed me that I should just pray to God, for there was nothing else that could protect the woman. (Apparently, after the elections the entire police hierarchy has been updated and a majority of the old SHOs have been transferred. These new police officials are political appointees who have been chosen for their loyalty to local power brokers; there’s no way in hell that there going to go against the edict of the tribal elders).

That's it then, I’ll probably call Zia Awan (a Human Rights Lawyer) and the Ansar Burney trust and solicit them for their help. Then I’ll return to work and try forgetting this entire story. What else can I do?

There is a woman, a mother of three, possibly kidnapped, with a bullet on her head and no one willing to prevent her slaughter.


NB said...

Try Behbud, and Mukhtar Mais organisation.

NB said...

and any word on where she is now?

AKS said...

Nope. Yusuf alluded that she's somewhere near Peshawar. But now that the elders have located who's taken, chances of them finding her and the guy are much higher; they have better local logistical support.

Ali said...

nb are you related to ansar burney>?

Ahsan said...


call my house and speak to my mum. ask her if she can get maheen's chacha to help.

AKS said...

I spoke to Yusuf in detail today and it transpires there's a twist to this tale. The woman has tried to leave the husband on several occasions as he is an extremely violent man who senselessly beats her up. Exercising her only option she would head to her parent’s house and inform them that she couldn’t live with the man anymore. Unfortunately, her parents always managed to do the ‘honourable’ thing and forced her back to ‘her’ house.

Her father who is in Karachi still has no idea that his daughter’s missing, whereas her husband and uncles want her dead. Her mother, sisters and Yusuf's family are the only ones trying to save her.

It now appears entirely possible that the woman has not been abducted but having had enough of the beatings has chosen to seek refuge with this man (Yusuf’s cousin). Yusuf still holds that she's been kidnapped. Whatever the case maybe, these people want her, and the man, dead; and it's very unlikely that they’ll wait to hear her side of the story.

@ NB

I called Behbud but they don't deal in this issue. They however, got me in touch with Aurat Foundation, which is one of the only organisations handling such csaes. I called their Peshawar Office and they said they could help. I've asked Yusuf to send someone trustworthy (i.e. someone who doesn't want the woman dead) to go to meet them. Here's hoping for the best.

@ Ahsan

Thanks bro. I couldn’t get through earlier, will call her in a bit.

M. said...

this blog is awesome

naqiya said...

also try madadgaar (zia awan's group). when i was there 4 years ago they only worked within karachi; they may have grown. either way, they have a pretty amazing network of ngos all over pakistan they can give you a referral to, so that might help. they also run shelters that provide protection (armed gaurds and such) in karachi, so if/when she gets there she'll be safe. goodluck aks!