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Self-immolation of a rape victim before a police station

PAKISTAN: The self-immolation of a rape victim before a police station demonstrates the popular frustration about the breakdown of discipline

A girl commits suicide by self-immolation after her rapists bribed the police to release them. The state institutions remained as silent spectators

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information that an 18 year old student died in hospital after setting herself on fire in the front of a hospital, in Muzzafargarh, Punjab province where the chief minister of the province refers to himself as the ‘Khadim-e-Aala’, the servant of the people. The victim was among the hundreds of girls who are gang raped by powerful people every year.

The girl set fire to herself in protest against the injustice done to her on March 13 and she died in the Nishtar Hospital in Multan today.

Amna was gang raped by four persons on January 5 and since then authorities, instead of providing her justice supported the rapists. They are influential persons of the area, and the police exonerated them from the rape charges. The victim had lodged a First Information Report (the FIR), stating that she was on her way to college when the accused, Nadir Khan and his four accomplices gang-raped her near the Bait Mir Hazar Chowk. The police Sub- Inspector (SI) Zulfiqar, the investigation officer, conducted an investigation and declared the main accused, Nadir Khan, innocent after taking a bribe. The high police officers, including district police officer (DPO), Deputy Superintendent of Police and the Station House Officer (SHO) first refused to send a report request to the hospital for her medical test. After the protests from civil society and victim’s family the police sent the request to the hospital and the rape was confirmed by the medical report. The investigation official set the accused free despite proof of the crime in the medical report.

When Amna learned about the release of the accused she set herself on fire outside the police station. Despite the fact that Amna intentions were clear no officer from the station made any effort to stop her or assist her in any way. She was taken to the Tehsil Heaquarter Hospital, Jatoi, but due to the severity of her burns and her critical condition the doctors referred her to Nishtar Hospital Multan. The doctors said that Amna had suffered 70 percent burn injuries. She died in the hospital the following day. A strong protest was observed throughout the country after the news of her death was received.

When the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Jillani, received notice of Amna’s death he called for the administration to report on the causes of the negligence on the part of the provincial government and police for not providing justice to the 18 year old girl. The Khadim-e-Aala, the chief minister of the province, after receiving the news of the action from the Supreme Court, immediately ordered the arrest of the investigation officer and rapists. So far, one of the prime accused has been arrested along with investigation officer.

Today marks a day of shame for a country where the civilian government and police failed to protect the member of a gender that is suppressed at best. The corrupt action of the police officers involved led to the senseless death of an innocent girl who had the courage to file a report in a country where the rape of any women is considered to have been her own fault.

This is a blatant example of the failure of the rule of law which, apparently only applies to the wealthy and influential. Rape is prevalent in Pakistan there was a notable increase during the military regime of President (former general) Musharraf and is virtually sanctioned by the failure of the officials and the state itself to punish the perpetrators. This, of course, is an area of major concern for the international human rights community and women’s rights groups. Another cause is the increase in Islamic fundamentalism wherein it is taught that women are to be considered as mere chattels.

This is also a failure of the criminal justice system that is gender biased and male dominated which provides protection to any man when the victim is a woman. The case of Amna is ample proof that after receiving all the evidence by way of the medical report to support her claim of rape, the police and the administration went to such extent as to crush the law beneath their boots spit in the eyes of society. By exonerating the rapists after receiving their bribes they were more responsible for her death than the rapists themselves.

Amna’s case has seen so much coverage in the media but the chief minister of the province and his cabinet members have been not moved by her plight. This itself is proof positive of their uncaring and self-centered attitude towards that part of the community they are supposed to be serving. When the attitude of the authorities is such it is apparent that they have no respect for the rule of law.

Amna’s case is symbolic of the popular frustration in Pakistan about the breakdown of discipline in the country. No institution is function as expected and, in fact, everything has broken down shamelessly. The government of Pakistan and the entire political establishment contributes to this complete collapse of discipline by their refusal to take any serious notice of the situation. In fact, it is the government and the political establishment that should take the blame for the widespread rape and other harassments to women and every form of violence that paralyses the population. Murder not only goes unpunished but murderers are rewarded. Pakistan’s political community does nothing to stop this situation. It is the duty of civil society and the media in particular to wake up to the societal catastrophe that makes ifs women and all others its helpless victims.

ENDS

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