[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for: 1 March 2006
Review: 114/06
Pakistan: Rape victims at the mercy of the rapists!

The gang rape of Rubina Kousar, a nurse at a government run clinic, at gun point by three men for refusing to perform illegal abortions in tribal dominated Mattrai under Punjab province on 22 February 2006 has once again exposed the vulnerability of women in Pakistan. Although police have reportedly arrested three persons, it remains to be seen whether justice is delivered. One of those arrested is a local council leader and denied the accusation as "conspiracy" by the opposition.

The rape of Rubina Kousar is not an isolated case. The rape of Mukhtar Mai and Sonia Naz brought international spotlight on such heinous crimes. Yet, not all victims are courageous and determined like Mai or Naz to demand justice. Majority of the cases in rural areas of Pakistan are simply not reported for fear of either reprisal from the perpetrators or being stigmatized as harram, being violated. The law, Hudood Ordinance, itself is against the victims.

Some of the cases of rape by the security forces in 2005 are highlighted below:

On the night of 2 January 2005, Dr. Shazia Khalid, a lady doctor who was employed with the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) at Sui in Balochistan was allegedly gang raped by unidentified people after barging into her room. The PPL management allegedly prevented a timely medical examination of the victim and concealed the incident from the police. Later, the PPL officials allegedly secretly shifted Dr. Shazia to Asghar Psychiatric Hospital, Karachi from Sui describing her to be a mentally disturbed patient. Even while the inquiry into the case by a judicial tribunal was in progress, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharaf exonerated the prime suspect, Captain Hamad, Head of the Defence Security Guard posted at Sui. But the judicial tribunal reported that she was raped twice by one person while another stood guard. Police medical report also confirmed rape. Prime suspect Captain Hamad was arrested following armed protests by local tribesmen. Police also arrested three PPL officials including Chief Medical Officer, Dr Usman Waddah, and Deputy Medical Officer, Dr Mohammad Ali on charges of destruction/ concealing of evidence.

In May 2005, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Faislabad, Khalid Abdullah and Jaranwala Station House Officer Inspector Jamshed Iqbal Chishti allegedly kidnapped a 23-year-old housewife, Sonia Naz, wife of Asim Yousuf of Faislabad in Punjab for trying to expose Khalid Abdullah's excesses on her husband and other family members. Sonia alleged that SP Khalid Abdullah beat and tried to rape her. Unable to rape, he urinated on her face while Inspector Jamshed Chishti raped her in the presence of SP Khalid Abdullah. A Punjab Police inquiry committee comprising provincial investigation department Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Zafar Qureshi, as chairman and Saad Akhtar Bharwana, investigation branch SP, as member, in its report reportedly found Sonia's charges of rape as substantial and had recommended registration of FIR against the accused, including SP Khalid Abdullah. The inquiry report said, "As regards the allegation of rape, there are sufficient grounds for registration of an FIR and subsequent investigation."

However, the Punjab Government did not implement the recommendations of Zafar Qureshi inquiry committee. It instead started victimising DIG Zafar Qureshi first by removing him from investigation department and transferring him to Surveillance and Inspection department without any office, staff, phone and car, and then by withholding his promotion from BPS-19 to BPS-20. Finally, the Punjab Police Department told him that his services were not required and was asked to stay at home till further orders.

On 17 October 2005, taking suo motu cognizance of news reports about the victim's sufferings at the hands of the accused police officials, a three-member bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the immediate arrest of SP Khalid Abdullah, Inspector Jamshed Chishti and eight other policemen on charges of abduction, torture and rape of Sonia Naz. On 24 November 2005, both prime accused-SP Khalid Abdullah and Inspector Jamshed Chisti were granted bail by Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman, additional district and sessions judge (Lahore). Sonia alleged that since their release, hired assassins have been let loose to kill her. In a bid to force Sonia to withdraw cases against SP Khalid Abdullah and others, her two-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter were reportedly kidnapped on the evening of 22 January 2006. Her kids were recovered from the kidnappers after a long chase by neighbours in the streets of Lahore. Ironically, Punjab Inspector General of Police, Major Ziaul Hassan had earlier refused to provide security to Sonia.

In May 2005, two girls were reportedly raped by the police in their custody at the Shahzad Town police Station in Islamabad. A judicial enquiry was later ordered on 23 May 2005 into the incident.

On the night of 5 July 2005, three policemen of Rohri police station in Sukkur district of Sindh allegedly raped a female detainee, Ms. Shamshad.

Hudood laws: Impunity to the rapists

Impunity is the single most important factor for increasing atrocities against women. The Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance of 1979 introduced by late military dictator General Zia-ul-Huq provides impunity to the accused of rape.

Under section 8 of the Ordinance, a rape victim is required to produce at least four adult male Muslim eyewitnesses, who have physically seen the act of rape against the victim in order to prove her case. As if that is not enough, section 8(b) provides for the requirement of the Court's satisfaction that the witnesses are truthful persons and abstain from major sins (kabair). Contrarily, the Hudood Ordinance victimizes the traumatized victims of rape thereby discouraging them from seeking justice. The victim can be held guilty if she fails to prove the accusation.

The Ordinance also considers sexual intercourse as adultery whether it is with or without the consent of a woman, who is not married with the man. Hence, a woman could be at risk of punishment under the Ordinance if she complains that she has been subjected to rape, as her statement pertaining to sexual intercourse is treated as her confession to adultery and thus could be charged with the offence of Zina. According to the National Commission on the Status of Women, 80 %of the women prisoners in the jails were victims of the Ordinance that relates to adultery, rape, kidnapping and abduction. The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) had done a comprehensive study on Hudood ordinance and recommended repealing of the controversial legislation. Despite promises by the President General Pervez Musharaff, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and Minister in charge of the women division, the federal government is yet to place the recommendations of the NCSW before the parliament for debate.

Undoubtedly, the government of Pakistan must recognize cultural rights, religious freedoms and practices. But these rights, freedoms and practices cannot be exercised at expense of heinous crimes against the women. In the 21st century, all laws must be based on principles of equality and non-discrimination. President Musharaff must take measures to abolish the Hudood Ordinance and bring the rapists to justice.

/ About ACHR / Campaigns / Press Releases / ACHR in Media / Countries / Links
Briefing Papers / Reports / ACHR Impact / Contact us