04/16/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Woman tortured by husband, but police say no case can be opened

The affair concerns a young wife nearly killed by her husband only because she had tried to ask for a divorce. Recovering in the hospital, she is still near death. But the police maintain that without an official deposition, they cannot press charges against her tormentor.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - The latest case of domestic violence against women in Pakistan has brought a woman in Harbanspura near death.  The police have still not opened a case against her husband, who tortured and tried to kill her.  The affair has been reported by the Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times, which got the story from the victim's mother.

It all happened last April 8: Arifa, aged 24, the mother of two daughters, was attacked by her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, who accused her of having illicit relations.  The reality is that three months ago the woman had asked for a divorce, but Iqbal had convinced her to change her mind by threatening to kill her and their daughters. Arifa's mother, Shamim Akhtar, says that the man, an alcoholic, habitually beat and abused her daughter, who before the marriage - nine years ago - was unaware of her husband's unhealthy habits.  In spite of an apparent reconciliation, the woman's suffering was not over.  And on April 8, it exploded into inhuman violence. Iqbal came home drunk late at night, tied up his wife, and began cutting her all over her body and beating her on the head with bricks.  While he was inflecting this torture, the man explained that in this way "she would learn not to go to the tribunal and not to carry on extramarital relations with lawyers and policemen".  He beat her and raped her in front of their daughters, and then poured alcohol on her open wounds, recounts Amina Akhtar, to whom the man went the following morning to tell her about killing Arifa. "We rushed to his house and found her smeared in blood, almost dead", her mother says, saying that they then called the police emergency line.

A week later, Arifa is still fighting for her life in the hospital, and no case has been opened against her husband.  The police of Harbanspura justify themselves by saying that there is no deposition on the part of the victim, and no medical-legal certificate.  The hospital has been repeatedly asked for documents by the woman's relatives, but has not released them.  Various NGO's, like the South Asia Partnership, are denouncing the husband, the police, and the hospital authorities, and say they will do whatever they can to bring justice for Arifa.

During 2007, Pakistan witnessed a tragic rise in violence against women. For the first time in the nine years that the national commission for the development of human rights has compiled the report on violence against women, homicides have risen to the top of the list: 901 cases, of which 747 were carried out by relatives of the victim.  Of these homicides, the police have agreed to open investigations in only 600 cases. They have arrested 122 persons, but only 30 have been sentenced.

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