In December 2011 The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 and The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices were passed by the Government of Pakistan. The bill on Acid control and Acid Crime recommends 14-year to lifetime imprisonment and fines up to Rs1 million for the criminals.
In February 2012, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy a Pakistani Film maker got an Oscar for her documentary ‘Saving Face’ made on the same subject – the plight of the acid victims.
On March 17th 2012, Fakhra Yunnus; an acid victim, gave up her fight and committed suicide in Italy, where she was living in asylum.
Fakhra was burned by acid and the alleged torturer was none other than her husband. She fought with her disfigurement and pain for 13 years, finally giving up on March 17th, 2012 when she jumped out of her 7th floor apartment and committed suicide.
Fakhra was 33 years old at the time of her death, the age where women are considered to be at their prime. She could have been an average woman of her age, married, with children and a busy house life sprinkled with balancing family, household chores, children’s tantrum, shopping sprees, at times exhausted and frustrated at others happy and giddy. She could have been all of that and yes, alive and healthy as well. But she wasn’t. She was an acid burn victim, whose husband, the alleged torturer had divorced her after the attack. She had a lot of supporters, but the people she trusted the most were not. Her circle of support gave her a lot of hope, but apparently not enough.
She met her torturer in the form of Bilal Mustafa Khar, an ex-parliamentarian belonging to an affluent and politically prominent family. She was a dancing girl at that time. He swept her off her feet and probably promised her the stars and the moon and everything in between. They got married after a six month long courtship. Fakhra probably couldn’t believe her lucky stars, from being a dancing girl in Karachi’s notorious red light area, she had married a respectable and prominent man of society, and she and her son (not Khar’s) had a home and respect. The fact that she was his third wife mattered little.
Things didn’t turn out that way. She claimed that her husband was aggressive and abused her mentally as well as physically. When it became unbearable for her, she left him and went back to live with her own family. It was there that her husband came and poured acid over her while she slept. If she thought her life with her husband was that of misery, she was mistaken. The life that loomed before her was much worse. Her entire face, chest and waist were burned by acid and she was disfigured beyond recognition.
Her husband was charged with the crime and was sent to jail but was acquitted and set free. It is widely believed that he used his political and social position to get the charges waived off. In Pakistan, it is neither unheard of nor impossible.
Her father in law, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, former Governor of Punjab is also known for his marriages and is notorious for the treatment of his wives. His ex-wife Tehmina Durrani exposed this side of him in her auto biography My Feudal Lord many years ago. It was none other than Tehmina who came forward and took Fakhra under her wing and made her treatment a goal. It was because of her efforts and influence that Fakhra was shifted to Italy, Rome, where she was treated and had been living till the time of her death.
During the 12 years of her life after the horrible attack, she went through 39 surgeries. She tried getting justice, but died believing she didn’t have enough clout or influences to get it.
Her body was brought back to her homeland, Pakistan and she was buried right next to her mother, according to her wishes. Her suicide has attracted a lot of press and many prominent political figures came forward to give their opinion, show disgust in hopes that the victims of this brutality will find justice. But at the same time, there are people who wonder if this is enough, or if the care and concern so vehemently shown now, is even genuine.
Abdul Sattar Edhi Pakistan’s prominent social worker was quite critical of the sudden attention given to Fakhra and other acid victims’ plights. He claimed that the concern is now only because the issue is hot and burning right now and everyone wants their three minutes of fame. He was also skeptical about whether a poor girl would get similar care and attention from both the media and government officials alike.
Thousands of women in Pakistan get attacked by acid every year, however not many survive. There are organizations and people working for the victims, just last year a bill was passed making Acid throwing a crime punishable by law. How much of the law is implemented? Not much, but it is high time now to start the implementation of the bill. It is time now, to stand for right and justice, to stand up against the wrong, regardless of how influential or politically strong the perpetrator may be.