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September 13, 2020

A few most-publicised rape cases in Pakistan

Top Story

September 13, 2020

LAHORE: The gang-rape of a helpless woman, who was stripped of her honour on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway last Wednesday night, is among the various high-profile and most-publicised cases in Pakistan that have drawn massive national and international attention. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, culprits exploited the grey areas in the criminal jurisprudence, used money and their influence to go scot-free! Here follow brief details of few of these famous rape cases:

On May 13, 1978, Jharna Basak (Shabnam), a renowned Pakistani film actress of yore, was subjected to traumatising ordeal at her house in the posh Gulberg locality of Lahore. Archival research shows that five armed men had entered Shabnam's home and first committed a robbery. After forcibly taking away rupees one lakh cash, jewellery and other household articles, the accused also gang raped Shabnam, in front of her husband, music composer Robin Ghosh, and their only son, Ronnie Ghosh.

After her failure to get her tormentors punished for the crime, this Pakistani actress, now 78, moved to her hometown Bangladesh in the late 1990s, finding it uphill to cope up with the bitter and painful memories of the unforgettable agony. The Lollywood poster girl, who appeared in over 160 movies and was introduced to film-makers in 1968 by legendary actor Waheed Murad. She initially chose London to reside, but then opted for Dhaka. Her son was studying in the United Kingdom at the time of the incident, and it was reported that he too was stalked and haunted by unknown men there in a bid to scare the family and prevent it from pursuing the case.

The seven accused in this case included influential individuals Mohammad Farooq Bandial, Wasim Yaqoob Butt, Jamil Ahmad, Tahir Tanvir, Jamshed Akbar Sahi, Agha Aqueel Ahmad and Mohammad Muzaffar.

All the accused, hailing from influential families, were later tried by the Special Military Court. The culprits had managed to influence local police to not register the case for gang rape. Five of the accused, convicted of robbery, were sentenced to death. Agha Aqueel Ahmad was awarded 10 years’ imprisonment and Mohammad Muzaffar was acquitted, on October 1979.

General Ziaul Haq, the-then president of Pakistan had reportedly commuted the death sentence handed over to the five accused. Shabnam and her family were reportedly and allegedly pressurised by the culprits into pardoning them. One of the accused Farooq Bandial, a politician from district Khushab, Punjab, had joined Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf ahead of the 2018 General Elections.

Within hours, the story about Bandial’s involvement in rape and robbery case at Shabnam’s house had resurfaced on social media, the growing public outrage then forced Imran Khan to expel him from PTI on May 31, 2018.

PTI leader Naeemul Haq (late) immediately took on twitter to announce the decision. His had tweeted: "We have no place for people with such record in our party. He [Bandial] should not even be in any political party."

Two more rape cases in 1983 had flashed headlines in both local and global media. This was the era of General Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation of laws.

The infamous Hudood Ordinances of 1979, conflated rape with zina (fornication), required four male witnesses to prove a sexual crime against a woman.

In 2006, a new Section, 254-A, was inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code through the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 1984. It dealt with "assault or use of criminal force [against a] woman and stripping her clothes" with a punishment as harsh as death penalty or life imprisonment and a fine (in case of rape).

But, belated rectification and amendments in relevant laws were certainly not enough to compensate an 18-year-old blind girl, Safia Bibi, who was raped by her landlord and his son in 1983.

A resident of the-then NWFP, Safia resultantly became pregnant. She was unable to prove her allegation of rape and was charged with fornication, found guilty, and hence sentenced to three years' rigorous imprisonment, 15 lashes and a fine of Rs1000 under the 'draconian' Hudood Ordinance. While her pregnancy was cited to prove that she had engaged in extra-marital sex, her assailants were acquitted due to "want of evidence." After national and international protest, the Federal Shariat Court acquitted Safia of fornication on appeal.

It was also in 1983 that a 13-year-old orphaned girl, Jehan Mina, was raped by her uncle and his son. She became pregnant too. Unable to convince the court that she was raped, the poor girl was instead given punishment of 100 lashes plus three-year rigorous imprisonment for Zina. The fact that she was pregnant was considered proof by the court that sex outside marriage had taken place.

Then, on November 27, 1991, Premier Benazir Bhutto’s 40-year old close friend Farhana (Veena) Hayat, was gang-raped inside her own house in Karachi. Benazir was not in power then, but was disheartened due to Veena Hayat’s rape and had brought the case for discussion on the National Assembly floor.

According to the FIR filed by her on November 28 at Gizri Police Station, Veena said she was assaulted, raped, and tortured for 12 hours at gunpoint by five assailants who had gagged and tied up her domestic staff too.

Veena Hayat, daughter of a veteran Muslim Leaguer Sardar Shaukat Hayat and grand daughter of Sir Sikandar Hayat (chief minister of pre-partition united Punjab), had blamed Irfanullah Khan Marwat--son-in-law of sitting Pakistani President Ghulam Ishaq Khan -- for orchestrating her rape.

The police had registered Veena's complaint only when the then Army Chief General Asif Nawaz Janjua had intervened. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was at loggerheads with the-then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

At that time, Marwat was working as the Sindh chief minister Jam Sadiq Ali’s advisor on home affairs and was a member of the provincial assembly, representing the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a coalition of right-wing parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Jamaat-e-Islami among others.

Irfanullah Marwat had denied the allegations and declared the FIR a political move to discredit him. He accused PPP of "involving ladies to achieve political ends" – implying that the political entity might have arranged the gang rape itself to malign him.

Shaukat Hayat held a press conference in Islamabad, demanding that Marwat be removed from office and his daughter’s attackers be taken to court. The Sindh government set up a high-level judicial tribunal to investigate the allegations. President Ishaq Khan also reportedly wrote a letter to Shaukat Hayat, admonishing him for making hasty conclusions and urging him to have patience. On December 12, 1991, the tribunal began its inquiry in Karachi. A few suspects had already been held by the police.

Both Veena and her father Shaukat Hayat, suspicious of the government’s sympathy for Marwat, refused to appear in front of the tribunal. They believed a fair trial could not take place as long as Marwat was part of the provincial government.

On December 20 of the same year, after his four-day ultimatum passed, Shaukat Hayat called a 17-member Jirga of tribal elders that gave the death sentence to all those involved in his daughter's case.

Nine days later, on December 29, the tribunal announced its much-anticipated verdict; there was no evidence on record to substantiate Veena’s accusation against Marwat. As for the gang rape, the tribunal concluded that only one of the culprits had committed the rape twice and, therefore, this was not an incident of gang rape. Newspapers had raised hue and cry over the verdict and questioned the disappearance of Veena's cook and driver, the key witnesses.

After Marwat’s acquittal, Veena moved out of Pakistan. Attempts to contact her remained fruitless.

In February 2017, over reports that Irfanullah Marwat had joined the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari's daughters Bakhtawar and Aseefa had reacted very strongly.

In 2002, 30-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi of Muzaffargarh district (Punjab) was gang raped on the orders of the local village council as an "honour rape" after allegations that her 12-year-old brother had had sexual relations with a woman from a higher caste.

The case was picked up by a large section of both domestic and international media.

On September 1, 2002, an anti-terrorist court had sentenced 6 men (including the 4 rapists) to death for rape, but in 2005, the Lahore High Court had acquitted 5 of the 6 convicted men due to insufficient evidence and commuted the punishment for the sixth man to a life sentence.

The aggrieved woman and the government of the time went into an appeal and the Supreme Court upheld the Lahore High Court decision, acquitting the accused.

In January 2005, Dr Shazia Khalid---an employee of a state-owned natural gas firm--was raped in Sui (Balochistan). She was working at the company's hospital for the past 18 months while living alone in heavily guarded government-provided accommodation. She was strangled with a cord, threatened, blindfolded, pistol-whipped, beaten and repeatedly raped by a powerful masked intruder. Her husband, Khalid, in Libya at the time, had rushed back to Pakistan to be reunited with his wife. With his support, Shazia reported the crime, which led to a violent uprising by the Bugti tribe in restive Balochistan. The fuming protestors disrupted the supply of gas to much of the country for several weeks. By some accounts, up to 10,000 soldiers and police were brought in to quell the rebellion. In March 2005, Shazia and her husband left Pakistan on a flight to London. She later applied for asylum in Canada but her application was refused.

Another rape case was reported in September 2008, where a widow resident named, Firdaus Bibi, was also gang-raped in the same gas company's residential compound. A case was registered against nine officials of the company and the security guards.

In 2007, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Kainat Soomro, was kidnapped and gang-raped for four days in her native village of Mehar in Sindh.

Kainat and family then fled to Karachi. Her brother was murdered and she was attacked twice—once at her house and the second time at the city court. Court had ruled that the accused were innocent, stating that there was no corroborative evidence available on record. All four men accused of Kainat's rape were hence acquitted. Amid an uproar from human rights activists, Kainat filed a petition in the Sindh High Court. It took two years for the hearing to finally begin, but to no avail!

This particular case too had attracted massive international attention. In 2014, one of her kidneys had stopped working. The other had developed stones and doctors had recommended a surgery.