Certain stories require no comment or embellishment. This is one of them:
ROME: The long standing and once highly publicised case of acid victim Fakhra Younus met its tragic end on March 17 when she jumped to her death in the Italian city of Rome. Her body is due to reach Karachi on Sunday, Express News reported.
Yunus, wife of former Member of Provincial Assembly Bilal Khar, had been undergoing treatment for acid scarred tissue, including multiple corrective surgeries in Rome.
In 1998, Yunus was an 18 year old resident of Napier Road’s Bulbul Bazar, Karachi’s red light district, when she met the then Muzaffargarh MPA Bilal Khar.
They both got married after a six month relationship. This was Bilal’s third marriage, while Yunus had a three year old son from an earlier liaison.
Little did Yunus know, that this was not meant to be her fairytale marriage, since shortly after the marriage, she faced both physical and mental abuse by Khar, which lasted for three years before she eventually escaped and moved in with her mother.
An infuriated Khar, with his bruised ego, took ‘revenge’ by pouring acid over her on May 14, 2000, as her five-year-old son watched. The attack left her severely burned, particularly her face. She, however, survived the attack but not before spending three months in intensive care.
Khar used his political influence to evade arrest and absconded, while Yunus’s family faced difficulty in registering an FIR against him.
On October 31, 2002, Khar was eventually arrested, but released in 2003 on Rs 200,000 bail.
To recap: one acid-burn victim leaped to her death. One acid-burn perpetrator sits comfortably in his home. And one-acid burn perpetrator’s cousin is presenting prizes to a documentarian whose Oscar-winning film was about acid-burning women.
There’s something very wrong with this picture, both literally and metaphorically.
To be clear, I don’t mean to indict or implicate Hina Rabbani Khar for her cousin’s crimes. Maybe deep in her heart she hates her cousin and what he did. We cannot know. But frankly, I’m not terribly interested in knowing what’s going on deep in her heart. (Update: For the record, here’s what Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy tweeted about HRK: “she was most concerned about acid violence saying she had a personal connection- v genuine”).
Incidentally, this type of thing is exactly why a lot of Pakistanis get angry when fashion shows and Birkin bags are taken as synonymous with liberty in the western press. It’s not just to be snarky to incurious and lazy western journalists. It’s because we know these people inside out. We know how Birkin owners think and act away from the cameras. They are, as a general rule, some of the most illiberal people you will find in our country.
For those unaware, the title of this post explained. (Update II: And on the subject of Tehmina Durrani, please make sure to read her op-ed in The News on Fakhra Younis and her suicide. Link via Shahid Saeed).
Update III: And via ExTrib, please watch Mr. Bilal Khar claim his innocence, argue that Fakhra killed herself because she had no money rather than the acid attack, use the word “kanjar” at least three times on national television, plea for understanding based on his having three daughters (what would he do if one of them married someone like himself?), and channel the Musharrafian argument that women in Pakistan are good with violence because it guarantees foreign visas and donor money.
Update IV: Please sign (and share) this petition demanding justice for Fakhra Younis and all acid-attack victims in Pakistan.