Asmat Khanrejo was a bright, independent and fiercely committed young woman. She financially supported her family and was emerging as a prominent community leader in Ibrahim Hyderi, a neighborhood of Karachi, before her life was brutally cut short last week. In her mother’s words, “Woh hum sab ko sambhalti thi” [she supported us all].
This formidable woman, who offered many around her strength and support, visited the Sindh Government Hospital Korangi No 5 for the treatment of toothache on April 18 but never returned home. She was raped and poisoned to death.
Expressing solidarity with the victim’s mother, Yasmeen, and with her aunt, Fareeda, Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi of the Sindh Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Sindh chapter’s Anis Haroon and activists of Aurat Haq among others on Monday vowed to get justice for Khanrejo.
They demanded the arrest of all suspects, a transparent investigation, a fair trial and severe punishments for all those involved in the woman’s rape and murder. Addressing a press conference organised by Aurat Haq, a women’s rights group, at the Karachi Press Club, they narrated the details of the inhuman act and said Khanrejo was raped by hospital staffers allegedly led by Dr Ayaz and joined by Dr Shakil.
“We have learnt that Asmat had reported a case of sexual harassment against one of the suspected doctors, after they had worked together on a public healthcare project 12 months ago. We have also learnt that the suspected doctors appear to have fled the hospital and are yet to be found and brought to justice.”
Speaking at the presser, Khanrejo’s aunt accused Dr Shakil, a former boss of the victim during an anti-TB campaign at The Indus Hospital, of perpetrating the crime after her refusal to work under his tutelage and stay silent about harassment and intimidation. Khanrejo had complained about Dr Shakil’s attitude and got herself transferred to the Sindh Government Hospital and later resigned from the job.
The victim’s aunt added, “When Khanrejo’s mother got a call from the hospital about her serious condition, they deliberately misguided her by saying she had been taken to Jinnah Hospital, but then called again that she was at the hospital where she went for treatment. When she arrived there, her dead body was found in a room in the TB ward. To her utter surprise, Khanrejo’s ex-boss Dr Shakil was also there who fled the scene after she arrived.”
She said the family was not given a copy of the FIR and the autopsy report, and that they only came to know through the media about details of the autopsy report.
They said the report just confirmed their suspicions that Khanrejo was raped and killed and it was not a case of medical negligence. “Post-mortem reports suggest that Asmat was drugged and raped during her visit to the hospital.”
“We condemn violence against women. We condemn the assault on the innocent. We condemn the monsters behind Asmat’s rape and murder. We condemn systems that fail to bring rapists and their accomplices to justice. We pledge to continue fighting and resisting until we attain justice for Khanrejo.”
What police are saying
On the other hand, Awami Colony Police Station SHO Shahid Khan had told reporters on Saturday that after being given a poisonous injection, Khanrejo was sexual assaulted at the hospital. Initially, the body was sent to Jinnah Hospital for examination and sample were sent to Islamabad for further examination.
Khan said Ghulam Muhammad, brother of the victim, had registered an FIR against Dr Ayaz and other staffers, including Shahzeb, Amir Ali, Shahzeb Wali Muhammad. Afterwards, police arrested three of the main accused but failed to catch Dr Ayaz and Dr Shakil.
On Monday, a District East judicial magistrate remanded the three suspects in judicial custody for their alleged involvement in the rape and murder of Khanrejo.