PAKISTAN: A single mother’s battle with her unborn child 

Baseer Naweed

Miss Uzma Ayub, a single mother, who was repeatedly raped whilst being held captive by an army soldier and three police officials during an entire year, is currently seven months pregnant and will give birth soon. She hates her unborn child but does not want to abort it; because she says she respects life. She is planning on giving her child up for adoption in the hopes of it having a better life.

Uzma was abducted by the policemen and a soldier when she was studying in secondary school in October 2010. She lives in an environment where education for girls is prohibited and women are not allowed to leave the house by themselves. Her decision to have her baby has sparked outrage among the local Taliban officials and extreme Islamic militants who are prone to violence and regularly burn down schools, CD shops and barber shops. Through all of her suffering Uzma has shown enormous strength by breaking her silence instead of protecting her “honor”.

Her determination to protect the life of child that was conceived out of rape, has put the Islamic fundamentalists in distress and utter confusion whether to oppose it or go for abortion of “an illegitimate child” (according to their narrow definition of what constitutes as a “Muslim child”).

Uzma lives in Waziristan, a self-proclaimed state of Taliban, where recently a couple of men came to visit her house. Instead of condemning the abduction and rape that she went through, these men threatened her to kill the child and told that this was a direct message from the Taliban. When this story became public the Taliban denied any sort of involvement and said that these threats were made by local policemen pretending to be part of the Taliban. However; the Taliban have shown no signs of condemning the rape and resulting pregnancy.

The religious groups in KPK province, who are known for their oppressive approach towards women, are conspicuously and cowardly silent on the issue of Uzma as they believe the birth of the child to be un-Islamic.  Because Islamic extremists disapprove of abortion and believe it to be conflicting with Allah’s teachings, Uzma’s story has created a complicated situation for the religious leaders, as they cannot support Uzma to keep the child because it is illegitimate according to Islamic teaching, but on the other hand abortion cannot be supported in public as goes against Allah’s teachings as well.

However, unexpectedly the religious groups are not so vocal about protecting the perpetrators but the police department is trying to its best to protect the policemen involved by using the same phrases word fundamentalist use to hide such crimes. When asked about the case, a deputy superintendent of Police (DSP) has told the reporters and human rights organizations that Uzma and her mother are bad people who are trying to create a smear campaign against the local officials.

Uzma herself went to court in the first week of October to officially speak out about the torture that she went through at the hands of the local policemen. A week later the police department announced that the perpetrators had been suspended from their jobs and that a departmental investigation had been initiated.

Due to local reports suggesting otherwise, the local police department have been continuously questioned whether the suspension had actually happened. Up until the 5th of November when the local Inspector General of the Police officially announced that the three police officials allegedly involved in the rape are suspended and a departmental inquiry had been initiated against them under the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), a high ranking police officer. However, this turned out to be a complete lie and Hakim Khan, the Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) of Police, who is believed to be the main perpetrator and rapist, has been transferred from the Nusrati Police station to provide protection to him.

Some government officials – including those from public relation department of the Army – told the media and the NGO activists that this is a smear campaign against Hakim Khan. And because he is involved in the local war against terror no action is to be taken against him. But, on the other hand, the people who came to Uzma’s house to threaten her and claimed to do so on behalf of the Taliban have said to the victim and her family that Hakim Khan is an important person for Taliban and that the Taliban does not want him to be involved him such cases.

For both the government and the Taliban, Hakim Khan is important and he could be provided protection. It is unclear however which group Hakim Khan sides with, whether it is the local police authorities or the Taliban. However whether Hakim Kahn is on the side of the “Jihad” or whether he is operating against the “Jihadis”, it is clear that Uzma has suffered incredibly through these heinous crimes.

Two weeks ago the high level inquiry committee, formed by the provincial government, has recommended to conduct a paternity test for the perpetrators and to suspend them from their duties. The committee has also recommended forming a new medical board to assess the actual age of the girl, but the government has ignored these recommendations in an effort to provide protection to Hakim Kahn, who is supposedly important for the war on terror. But on the other hand the provincial government’s efforts are also to appease the Muslim extremist groups to not take action against the case.

The courts’ attitude towards the women appears to be the same as that of the Muslim fundamentalists. This is nothing new and has reminded the Pakistani people of the recent events in the Mukhtaran Mai case. In this high-profile case the Chief Justice of Pakistan had decided to reject the appeal of a woman who was ordered by a tribal council to be gang-raped to atone for an alleged crime committed by her brother in the summer of 2002. On April 21 the Chief Justice of Pakistan decided to uphold the Lahore High Court decision and to acquit the five of the six suspects.

This was the complete show of narrow-mindedness from the apex court, which had kept her appeal pending for six years and then rejected her right to appeal and legalized the perpetrators request to hold parallel court systems in the name of Panchayat.

The same attitude was reflected by the Chief Justice of KPK provincial high court when the mother of the Uzma applied to get the local authorities to recover her abducted daughter from the local policemen and the army official. The application was converted into a petition by the court itself and for more than six months the court was said to order a search for Uzma but the government and the police has never complied with these orders.

On July 26 the court disposed of the petition by directing the police that whenever the girl would be found she was to be brought in to the court to make a statement. The perpetrators were released immediately which provided them with the opportunity to continue to keep Uzma hostage.
If the girl had not escaped from the perpetrators she would not have been recovered and no one would have known what she had gone through, and what she undoubtedly would continue to go through.

After Uzam escaped, the provincial high court has never asked any sort of explanation from the police department regarding the captivity of the girl and the initial denial of involvement. As to this day the court has still not ordered the government to provide her with medical treatment while the court itself has observed that she is in too much in trauma to speak properly about the abduction.

Due to the military-like structure of the government and their appointments on judiciary, it is still hard for the judges from various tiers of judiciary to understand the plights of the women in the hands of the male dominant society. The judges are stuck in a military mindset that has not changed for centuries and there seems to be no change in their chauvinistic way-of-thinking, especially in a society where the Shariah Laws, a legal and Islamic way for the impunity, protects the perpetrators and not the victims.

Uzma has become the legend in the fight against the impunity and rights of the marginalized section of her society. Her simultaneous love and hate for her unborn child is very understandable for those who respect a woman’s pride and the innocence of a child. She has expressed not to put blame on her unborn child for the horrors she went through, but that the society must put pressure on the government to prosecute the perpetrators who are currently enjoying a life of freedom under the protection of the police department. She understands that in a society where the access to justice for women is very limited, the birth of her child would never be accepted by the highly religious population but that the society should accept the hard reality of the situation.

She hates the child because it reminds her of everything she has gone through but she hopes that her child will be adopted by a good family. This combination of pure hatred and pure love at the same time is something new in a country where the conception of a illegitimate child always results in the birth of a child and a cursed life for the mother. The strict Shariah laws and Muslim teachings are enforced by Islamic fundamentalists and result in the oppression of women and their personal characters while protecting the male perpetrators.

In the society where Uzma lives these strict Islamic laws prevail and until they are changed women like Uzma will continue to be oppressed.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-057-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions, Violence against women, Women's rights,